Kosciusko County Emergency Management Director Ed Rock today provided the county commissioners with a renewed disaster declaration pertaining to the drought. With little, if any rain in the forecast for the next 10 days, it should be a year without fireworks.
A burn ban is currently in effect and if the hot and dry forecast persists it is certain the commissioners will extend the ban through at least Friday, July 6. That means the use of personal fireworks will remain off limits through the holiday weekend and week.
While there has been much debate on the legality of the county’s ban on personal fireworks, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security fully supports the counties that have opted to make fireworks off limits during a drought. (See the IDHS’s complete list of bans here.)
State statute does permit fireworks from June 29 to July 9, but under burn bans issued by local government, the commissioners are allowed to ban fireworks by declaring a local disaster emergency.
State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson told The Associated Press that the authority of local officials to ban fireworks under emergency declarations is “uncertain,” but it has not been challenged in court. Greeson also said, “Hoosiers are ultimately responsible for knowing what local fireworks restrictions are in place and are liable for any damage or injuries caused by the use of fireworks or improperly discarded lit cigarettes.”
Rock cited Indiana Code 10-14-3-22 “Orders, rules and regulations; amendment and rescission” in his argument that the fireworks ban will remain in effect for Kosciusko County. Under that title, “The political subdivisions and agencies designated or appointed by the governor may make, amend, and rescind orders, rules, and regulations as necessary for emergency management purposes.” (See the full IC 10-14-3-22 here.)
Rock explained, “Our burn ban is actually a disaster declaration which means all other rules and laws basically go out the window.
“Before we issued this burn ban we met with the county fire association and we had the county attorney and the prosecutor look over the declaration,” says Rock. “Everyone gave it their overwhelming support.”
Rock cites Indiana Code Title 10 (IC 10-14-3-29) saying local government can issue bans of personal fireworks in the event of an emergency. A drought, according to state law, is among the disasters that the burn ban can be implemented for.
Organized fireworks displays are still allowed and most will go on as planned. Despite the burn ban, those displays are regulated by local fire departments and therefore can be held.
The National Weather Service said Tuesday that much of Indiana faces an elevated fire risk for the rest of this week with increasingly dry conditions, temperatures climbing into the 90s with heat indexes in triple digits and gusty afternoon winds expected.
To see the county’s burn ban in it’s entirety read: Burn Ban 2012 revised