EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - For the second consecutive summer, fire restrictions, including a statewide ban on fireworks, is hurting owners of fireworks shops as the 4th of July holiday approaches.
Fireworks sellers do most of their business between now and that holiday weekend. Jody Ilett, owner of Affordable Flags & Fireworks in Security-Widefield, said fireworks are about a third of her total sales, but at least she has other merchandise to sell.
Ilett said she bought about $25,000 worth of fireworks in advance, and they can't be returned or refunded. Presently, the fireworks are on her store shelves covered by a state of Colorado flag.
Ilett said she estimates that she'll lose $100,000 in sales and expenses the past two years if the ban isn't lifted soon. Sales drop off significantly after the holiday, she said.
"My employees won't get hours, they won't get bonuses and it's hard on them because they count on that," said Ilett.
Bruce Jurgens, who owns three fireworks stands, said owners of stands and tents that sell only fireworks will suffer more under the ban because those owners often are retired or depend more on fireworks sales for income.
Such owners, he said, face the added expense of paying to set up on private property. Under normal conditions, fireworks are legal only within unincorporated areas of counties and are prohibited in cities, towns and municipalities.
"Fire restrictions should be local and regional, not statewide," said Jurgens. "I've also heard some firefighters say a fireworks ban is unnecessary."
However, El Paso County Fire Marshall Jim Reid said he's unaware of any opposition among firefighters to the ban.
"The goal is safety," he said. "Why would anyone be against that?"
Ilett said she has mixed emotions about the situation.
"I see the need for safety," she said. "But the law also is telling us that people aren't smart enough to not light (fireworks) if it's dry."
Some fireworks stores sell so-called "export" fireworks which can only be purchased by customers who intend to use them outside of Colorado. Buying those fireworks requires a valid out-of-state driver's license and vehicle registration, and a signed statement of intent to use the fireworks in other states.
The ban likely will drive many customers to Wyoming to buy fireworks. Ilett said except for 2011 and 2012, 2002 was the most recent year a ban was in place during the 4th of July.
"It's going to be another disappointing year unless it starts raining," she said.