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Cities Can Declare Emergency To Legally Outlaw Fireworks
Updated May 5, 2013 12:11 AM | Filed under: WBIW News
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(UNDATED) - Several counties have stated that, while they discourage firework use during these hot and dry weather conditions, they cannot prohibit personal firework use by law.

But according to the State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson, there are ways around that law.

"The law on the fireworks stipulates and says an ordinance, a local ordinance, city ordinance cannot restrict the use of fireworks," Greeson told RTV6's Chance Walser.

But if a county or municipality declares a state of emergency disaster, banning personal fireworks falls under the discretion of local authorities.

"It gives local executives of government a tool to make sure that public safety is maintained," Greeson said.

At least 15 Indiana counties have made such declarations, and according to the Department of Homeland Security, incorporated cities can take the same step.

But not everyone realizes that.

For instance, the city of Westfield said in a statement they are collaborating with Hamilton County to declare a state of emergency disaster, but IDHS said Westfield can make that call independent of county oversight.

The confusion is transferring from local governments to some consumers who, in some cases, aren't sure whether to stock up their personal stash of fireworks.

"I had a customer this morning that was a little concerned, so he just bought some smaller things, and then he probably will come back this weekend if things are OK," said Eileena Woolbright, a fireworks vendor. A spokesperson for IDHS said it is up to each municipality to do their own research and determine whether a disaster declaration is appropriate.

The Indiana Fireworks Association does not think municipalities have the legal right to restrict personal firework use.

They are meeting with area vendors today to discuss what actions they might take to try and keep a fireworks ban from happening.

State police are also watching carefully for drivers who toss lit cigarette butts or matches from cars. Troopers will fine those for doing so even if the lit cigarette doesn't cause a fire and criminal prosecution is possible if a fire is started.

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