On July Fourth, callers had difficulty getting through on the emergency 911 line because Colorado Springs police were inundated with calls about illegal fireworks, officials said.
Police Department spokesman Lt. James Sokolik said there were 156 complaints over the holiday weekend, 109 after midnight Saturday.
The number of calls reflected what many, particularly pet owners, were posting on online sites such as Nextdoor, throughout Saturday night into Sunday — an incessant barrage of illegal and very loud fireworks going off into the early morning.
All fireworks with a fuse that is ignited and even sparklers which don't explode are illegal in Colorado Springs and El Paso County, although some can be purchased legally in neighboring states with different laws.
Despite receiving nearly double the number of calls as last year, police issued one fireworks-related summons during the holiday Sokolik said.
Sokolik said that on the Fourth of July, the Police Department received approximately 1,300 calls of all kinds; last year it got just under 500. That's more than the officers on duty can handle, he said, and respond to fireworks complaints.
El Paso County sheriff's deputies also found themselves stretched thin.
"We had a tremendous increase in priority one calls" Saturday and early Sunday, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Deborah Mynatt. Priority one calls are those in which a person is in immediate danger.
"If we had nothing but firework-related calls, I guarantee you we would have issued some citations because there was so much of it going on," she said.
Mynatt agreed with those who said there was a tremendous increase in illegal fireworks being shot off this year, but "we don't really know why."
She speculated that the city canceling its annual concert and fireworks show in Memorial Park, choosing to spread out the fireworks at 10 different locations because of the pandemic, may have led some to stage their own show.
Sokolik said more summonses are possible once as reports are processed. Possession, use and/or sale of fireworks is subject to a fine up to $2,500 and 189 days in jail. All citations will demand a mandatory court appearance in municipal court.
Because of the effect fireworks have on pets and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, some believe that law enforcement should treat it as a higher priority than it does.
On Twitter, Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth posted, "Fourth of July is meant to be a day of pride and celebration, but if you’re planning on using fireworks as part of your celebration, please be aware of the impact it could have on those with PTSD."
Christine of Colorado Springs posted, "My area has been going off for hours. I have 2 cats and a dog and I don't know which of the 3 has been more wigged out than the others. They are panicked. I love fireworks but why can't they designate an hour or so around 9 to do this? I can't imagine vets right now."