OUR VIEW: Luster of wintertime fireworks fading fastLegislators’ decision last winter to authorize the sale of fireworks during the days leading up to and including the New Year’s holiday is proof of the futility of making predictions.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Legislators’ decision last winter to authorize the sale of fireworks during the days leading up to and including the New Year’s holiday is proof of the futility of making predictions.
As they trudged through snow drifts on their way into the Capitol, legislators no doubt could not have envisioned a future in which the legalization of New Year’s fireworks would put the state at risk of widespread grass fires.
We couldn’t foresee it, either. Here’s what we wrote about the issue back in February: “We like the idea of fireworks during New Year’s celebrations, which is how many folks celebrated the opening of the new year in times past.”
We still generally like the idea of fireworks during New Year’s celebrations, but we’re not too fond of the idea this year. Because of the new state law, fireworks sales opened Wednesday and continue through Sunday.
Unusually dry conditions since fall have pushed the grass-fire season deeper into the calendar than most of us have ever witnessed. Mitchell Fire Capt. Steve Nedved summarized the strange situation earlier this month during an interview with The Daily Republic.
“We’re getting grass-fire calls in December, which is almost unheard of,” he said. “We’ve seen it before, but not to this degree.”
Just last week, there was a grass fire inside the city limits, in the small valley that runs along Dry Run Creek between Burr and Foster streets. The cause of the blaze is still unknown.
So, into this flammable situation come fireworks. Thursday’s rain may have lessened the fire risk, but there are probably still danger spots.
We don’t blame legislators. There’s no way they could have predicted a winter like this.
We will, however, blame county officials if hindsight shows that bans should have been implemented. The fire risk is well understood, and plenty of information is available. The issue is fully in the lap of the decision makers.
Mitchell city officials are somewhat off the hook, because the city code already bans the use of fireworks within the city limits. No emergency actions are therefore required by the City Council, but we hope the mayor and public safety chief are taking steps to ensure police officers and firefighters keep an especially watchful eye on the city through Sunday.
At the county level, commissioners can enact an emergency ban on fireworks when the grassland fire danger index published by the National Weather Service reaches the extreme category. The index is updated daily and was low Thursday, but winds of around 30 mph are anticipated this weekend with high temperatures, so the index could rise.
We hope county officials are watching. Unfortunately, we won’t know until Monday if they made the right decisions.