Springs cops say they couldn't stop fireworks

ANGIE JACKSON Updated: July 6, 2011 at 12:00 am • Published: July 6, 2011

Warnings of high fire danger didn’t stop some residents from welcoming the Fourth of July with illegal personal fireworks this past holiday weekend, but others were diligent in reporting them.

From July 2 to July 5 at 5 a.m., police received 5,424 calls for service, of which 766 were for fireworks – a jump from last year’s 135 fireworks calls to Colorado Springs police. This year’s fireworks calls broke down like this:

• July 2: 96  

• July 3: 170

• July 4: 463

• July 5: 37

Though fireworks could be seen and heard in neighborhoods throughout Colorado Springs, the police department said it didn’t have enough manpower to respond to the hundreds of calls it received.

Police Chief Richard Myers said on Facebook that fireworks use at a time of extremely dry weather conditions displays an absence of personal responsibility.

“Some residents are angry with us, the police, for not stopping it … We simply don’t have the luxury to assign every fireworks call to an officer, but there were additional public safety personnel on the streets all weekend trying to be proactive on this danger,” Myers wrote.

Sgt. Steve Noblitt, police spokesman, said fireworks calls are generally a low priority for the department. A standard fireworks complaint is not dispatched for an officer unless there is something significant about the call, he added.

“As far as a police call for service it’s still a low priority unless someone called in and indicated that they were somehow threat a dry area that may catch fire,” Noblitt said. “It has to be something different than someone popping off fireworks.”

Noblitt said the police department doesn’t track fireworks citations and he didn’t know if any were issued.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department received more than 1,000 calls for fireworks complaints from Saturday to Monday, with more than half the calls flooding in on the Fourth, said Sunny Smaldino, Colorado Springs Fire Department spokeswoman.

The department confiscated two 50-gallon drums of fireworks, but no injuries or significant fires sparked from fireworks were reported.

The holiday weekend came just after what the National Weather Service declared the fourth driest June in Colorado Springs on record since 1988. Rainfall on Saturday took a bit of the edge off this weekend’s dryness, however.

Forest Service law enforcement officer Tom Healy said those celebrating the holiday weekend in the Pikes Peak region were compliant with the fireworks ban. Officers didn’t issue any citations for fireworks use, but it was a different story for campfires.

Healy estimated that officers handed out more than a dozen citations for illegal campfires through the weekend, saying that the percentage of people who chose to enjoy a fire either missed the widely-publicized memo or didn’t care about risking a $325 ticket. Community members and other campers aided in alerting the forest service of burning campfires.

“In a lot of cases the other campers were flagging us down. They were like, ‘Hey we’re here, we understand, were complying and these people next to us are not,’” Healy said. “One group came back into town and reported a group because they were upset.”

Dogs and cats alike took a run for it at the sound of fireworks. Humane Society communications specialist Erica Meyer said the shelter received hoards of animals over the weekend that were likely frightened and ran away from their homes.

“Our receiving area was completely full from the time we opened to when we closed yesterday,” Meyer said Wednesday.

The shelter also received increased calls reporting dogs barking.

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