Burn, firework bans under consideration in dry areas
Michigan’s state fire marshal is weighing recommending bans on fireworks and burning in parts of the state with extremely dry conditions heading into the Fourth of July weekend.
“It is being discussed at the state level, and at this point, we are not taking any actions for a burn ban or a fireworks ban,” State Fire Marshal Julie Secontine told The News on Tuesday.
But at least a few Michigan communities are not waiting on the state for guidance.
Indian Springs Metropark in White Lake canceled its fireworks show scheduled for Thursday evening.
"Due to dry weather conditions, the fireworks show at Indian Springs Metropark has been cancelled for ... Thursday, June 30," officials wrote in a Facebook post. "We apologize for the inconvenience."
The Facebook page's cover photo lists a week of previous and future fireworks shows at various area metroparks. The only remaining show, scheduled Friday at Lake St. Clair Metropark, was not canceled as of Thursday morning.
The Village of Holly, Groveland Township, and the City of Farmington Hills in Oakland County, Washington Township in Macomb County and Canton Township, Dearborn Heights, and Ecorse in Wayne County also banned the use of consumer fireworks because of dry conditions, according to their websites.
A handful of cities, including Pontiac, Dearborn, Melvindale and Novi, have not banned consumer fireworks, but issued warning for residents.
"It truly is an unfortunate situation," Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko said in a statement, "but under these extreme conditions, we must place the safety of people and property over entertainment."
Communities can exercise that right under Michigan Fire Prevention Act of 1941, which allows for a commanding officer of local fire departments to “take all necessary steps and prescribe all necessary restrictions and requirements to protect persons and property until the dangerous condition is abated.”
Other communities, however, say they believe state law empowering local officials to ban fireworks to be more a “gray area.”
“We’re waiting for a consensus between the state fire marshal, the DNR, and the governor about whether or not that is legal,” said Northern Oakland County Fire Authority Chief Jeremy Lintz, which covers Holly and Rose townships.
“We have a full outdoor fire burn ban, and we’ve had it out since last week. ... We’re also debating whether or not to ban the use of consumer fireworks.”
When asked if a fireworks ban is being considered, Gov. Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman, Anna Heaton, confirmed the state fire marshal has not recommended one to the governor as of Tuesday.
Orion Township Fire Department is not banning the use of consumer fireworks while the state weighs its plans.
“Nobody really knows what they can do because fireworks are regulated by state laws. So I’m not going to take any chances,” Orion Township Fire Chief Bob Smith said. “Some of us are doing it, and some of us aren’t.”
A dry spell has gripped much of the Lower Peninsula, turning lawns brown, drying up freshly planted gardens and inflaming allergies. Rain in some parts of the state is 25 percent of normal levels or even less, said Jeffrey Andresen, state climatologist and co-director of Enviro-weather at Michigan State University.
A controversial state law on fireworks allows residents to use consumer-grade fireworks the day before, day of, and day following a national holiday. The Fourth of July is Monday.
Licensed dealers can sell low-impact fireworks — such as sparklers, snappers and poppers — and commercial-grade fireworks, such as bottle rockets and Roman candles. Low-impact fireworks are ground-based items while commercial grade fireworks are to be ignited only from personal property and it is illegal to use them on any public property, including streets and sidewalks, school or church property or any person's property without permission.
Fireworks of long ago — such as cherry bombs, M-80s and Silver Salutes — are all illegal.
People responsible for fires or injuries involving illegal fireworks are subject to crimes of up to a felony with a five-year prison sentence and $10,000 fine.
The weather is expected to be mostly dry though Tuesday, with with a chance of rain Thursday evening and the first half of Friday, according to the National Weather Service office in White Lake Township.
On Tuesday, Detroit Fire Department Capt. Chris Dixon warned of the dangers of setting off the more powerful fireworks allowed under state law, regardless of the weather conditions.
He used a few types of different firecrackers and objects for an exercise, including a mortar placed under a watermelon and a roman candle shaped like a sword.
“Fireworks of the past didn’t go ‘boom-bang-pow’ in the air, but what they’re selling now at all the fireworks tents are very powerful and can be very dangerous,” said Dixon, a senior fire prevention instructor with the department’s Fire Marshal Division.
During the month around the Fourth of July holiday, an average of 230 people across the country wind up in a hospital emergency rooms every day with fireworks-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
More than 50 percent of all firework injuries are burns and more than a third of all injuries from fireworks are on hands and fingers. After hands and fingers, the body parts that get hurt most often by fireworks are heads, faces and ears.
“The fireworks we have now aren’t our mom’s and dad’s fireworks,” Dixon said. “They’re very dangerous, so you should be careful where you store them. Have adult supervision when using them. Keep small children and animals away from them. And no alcohol.”
Staff writers Charles E. Ramirez and Holly Fournier contributed.