COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The effort by Colorado Springs authorities to prevent fires by enforcing the city's ban on personal fireworks use apparently was successful Thursday.
Authorities reported few problems Independence Day evening while firefighters patrolled areas of the city west of Interstate 25 where the fire danger is highest.
Five brush trucks, each with two fire firefighters, patrolled between 5 p.m. and midnight. Their job was to be ready to put out any fire started by fireworks, and to watch for anyone violating the city's ban.
Firefighter Brad Starling said crews were authorized to seize the fireworks of anyone violating the ban, although such action is rarely necessary.
"All we ask is that they hand over their fireworks so that we don't have to worry about additional fires getting started in these dry conditions," said Starling.
A KRDO NewsChannel 13 crew rode with Starling's crew. The crew investigated several reports of illegal fireworks. Most were uneventful.
Police officers patrolled the rest of the city, ready to issue a court summons to people caught violating the ban. The minimum penalty for violations is a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
"If a fire is started (by fireworks), that will be considered an act of arson," said Brett Lacey, the city's fire marshal. "Whatever penalties are deemed appropriate (from) that will be imposed as well."
Lacey said the number of fires started by fireworks has declined in recent years because of increased preparation by authorities and a greater public awareness of fire danger in light of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest wildfires.
The city also had fire inspectors at each of the four public fireworks shows Thursday. Fire resources were available at each location in case they were needed.
The Garden of the Gods Club in the Kissing Camels subdivision took the extra precautions of moving its annual show to a safer area and soaking the area with water. Yet some residents remained upset that the show wasn't cancelled.
"A few people said we were a little insensitive," said Erik Pedersen, a club spokesman. "They said they couldn't enjoy the Fourth of July because they had to worry about another fire, or their house. Maybe they don't know about the precautions we take. Most people do."
Police received 133 fireworks complaints between 8 p.m. and midnight Thursday. The number of citations issued was unavailable as of Friday morning. The fire department has yet to release figures from its patrols.
In a related matter, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office (which also has a fireworks ban) responded to 58 fireworks complaints between 3 p.m. and midnight Thursday. The number of citations issued was unavailable as of Friday morning.
The fireworks patrols will continue Friday and Saturday. To report an illegal use of fireworks in Colorado Springs, call (719) 444-7000. In El Paso County, call (719) 390-5555.