Casper City Council Nixes Idea to Allow Small Fireworks
The Casper City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal by one of its members to loosen Natrona County's ban on certain consumer fireworks within the city limits.
During a work session, council member Ken Bates said the city should allow residents to be able to light up sparklers, smoke bombs, poppers and similar nonaerial fireworks as long as they do so on their own property, with certain precautions such as igniting them on a concrete pad with water nearby.
"People shoot them off anyway," Bates said.
"Yes a fire could happen, and a house could burn down," he said. "I want people to celebrate their independence."
Bates hoped the council would see this as a good thing because it would be another reason for people to want to come to Casper.
However, most council members did not see it as a good thing.
"I can't see any possible reason for doing this," Mike Huber said.
Before 1980, when Natrona County banned the sale and use of fireworks, calls about fireworks-caused fires were astronomical, Huber said.
Casper and other municipalities followed the county's lead and the number of calls and the fires went way down, he said.
Huber agreed that people break the law now, but Bates' proposal if adopted would aggravate the situation, he said.
Before Tuesday's work session, Casper Fire Chief Tom Solberg, Deputy Chief Mark Harshman and Community Risk Reduction Officer Ryan Neff wrote a memo to City Manager Carter Napier about the ban, its effect and the consequences of changing it.
"As the City of Casper and surrounding communities have grown, our exposure to homes in the wildland-urban interface has also increased," Solberg, Harshman and Neff wrote. "The complexity and resource demands in this interface firefighting environment have increased exponentially."
Professionally-produced fireworks displays are allowed at certain events, such as the July 4th show at the Casper Events Center, but the producers must obtain a permit with strict rules to protect spectators, they wrote.
Bates said Lander allows ground-level consumer fireworks on the Fourth of July, and their fire issues are minimal.
However, council member Khrystyn Lutz said Lander can't be compared to Casper.
Lander's soil is wetter, the town is essentially under lockdown during the Fourth of July, fire trucks are positioned throughout the city, and people watch for fires, Lutz said.
Casper is much much bigger than Lander, she said. "A little fire could get real big."
Lutz wasn't impressed with Bates' argument that people are going to do it anyway, either. After all, heroin is illegal and people still use it, she said.
Tim Cortez, the city's parks and recreation director, said poppers throw out sparks, and sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mayor Charlie Powell said he was concerned about rumors that would arise to where people would draw the inference that all fireworks were legal. "That would be an unacceptable risk."