AURORA | Aurora’s new more-lenient fireworks rules didn’t stop many revelers from reaching for the illegal fireworks during their July 4 celebrations.
Police officers and firefighters — who patrol the streets together around the holiday searching for illegal fireworks — issued 37 summons this year, up from 20 a year ago. And fireworks caused two structure fires in 2017 compared to just one a year ago. Fireworks sparked 36 vegetation blazes compared to 20 in 2016.
Fire officials detailed the statistics in a memo sent to city council’s Public Safety and Courts Committee ahead of their meeting next week.
Based on initial observations, the first year that saw legal fireworks in Aurora seemed fairly typical, said Aurora fire spokeswoman Lt. Laure Bridges.
“The fires we had were not because of legal fireworks, it’s always the illegal ones,” she said.
Crews were certainly busy, both with people lighting illegal fireworks and the occasional fire over the holiday weekend, Bridges said, but that has always been the case.
“It was craziness, but it always is on July 4,” she said.
At least one fire was caused by fireworks, she said, but that one was caused by mortars, which set the roof of a home on East Utah Place on fire. Those fireworks were illegal this year and have long-been banned statewide.
In a move that proved largely uncontroversial, city council early this year voted to allow some fireworks within the city limits. The rules allowed for fireworks that don’t explode or shoot in the air.
Officials speculated at the time that lifting the ban could help prevent people from burning fireworks in private, where they could cause a more serious fire risk. Which is why even fire officials backed the plan, saying they hope it means more people will do light fireworks in an open and safer manner.
Plus, officials said lifting the ban would also make Aurora uniform with other jurisdictions, limiting the confusion that bedeviled many city revelers.
Under the old rules, it was legal to buy fireworks at several stands in unincorporated Arapahoe County — many of which sit just outside the Aurora line — but it was illegal for people to bring those legally purchased fireworks into Aurora.
The new rules also give the city a few opt outs. Even if the county sheriff has not instituted a fire ban, the city may do so at any time under the new rules — and that ban would bar the sale or use of fireworks.
Aurora’s decision follows a similar move by the City of Centennial, which legalized similar fireworks last year. Denver still bans all fireworks.
As of this week, all fireworks are illegal countywide though. Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher announced last week that because of the fire danger, he has enacted a burn ban across the unincorporated part of the county.
That ban covers not just fireworks, but campfires at Cherry Creek State Park as well.
Police and fire officials asked residents not to call 911 to report fireworks but many still did.
Aurora police spokesman Sgt. Chris Amsler said from June 30 to July 5 there were 840 fireworks complaint calls to 911, down from 938 in 2016.
From noon July 4 at until 4 am July 5 there were 310 complaints, down from 414 last year.
Amsler said police want people to report illegal fireworks, but they don’t want those calls to tie up the 911 line.
“Fireworks is a nuisance,” he said. “Unless someone’s life is in danger or there is a fire or someone is injured, it’s not really an emergency.”