As June winds down into July, an increasing number of fireworks tents have begun to pop up across Pueblo.
Although the independent sellers are vetted by the city's fire department and are supposed to have only legal wares, here's what residents of the county seeking to celebrate Independence Day need to know.
The Pueblo Fire Department recommends anyone hoping for a large fireworks display to attend the professional show slated for about 9:30 p.m. on July 4 at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk. While there is no festival scheduled to compliment the fireworks show this year, the HARP Authority recommends that anyone wanting to see the show grab a blanket, lawn chair or reservation at a local restaurant to watch.
The fireworks will be set off from the roof of the Main Street parking garage.
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However, if that doesn't soothe the celebratory bug many Americans feel during July 4, Capt. Woody Percival of the Pueblo Fire Department said that there are several ways to keep things safe while utilizing fireworks.
The first thing to know is which fireworks are legal in Pueblo — any device that explodes or lifts off the ground is not allowed in the city or county. However, items like ground spinners, fountains, sparklers and smoke bombs are permitted under the municipal code.
Firework legislation is based on region, so use, sale, or possession of fireworks in areas like El Paso County is illegal.
Percival recommended that anyone with a fire or firework device have a pressurized water hose nearby with a nozzle to conserve water in order to ensure any possible flames can be extinguished immediately. Percival also recommended celebrants keep a five-gallon bucket of water nearby to douse any smoldering remains of fireworks.
"We also recommend that fountains and such items that release a lot of sparks are set off on stable, non-flammable surfaces, like concrete," he said. "It should also be a safe distance from anything flammable."
He noted that to prevent stray fires, residents should clear the space they intend to light fireworks in of any yard waste or debris, including litter. He specifically pointed out gutters, noting that sparks that fall into gutters can cause leaves and other debris to smolder and begin a fire.
"The Fourth of July tends to be a very busy holiday for emergency services in general," Percival warned, noting that only adults should be handling fireworks.
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Sgt. Frank Ortega, public information officer for the Pueblo Police Department, noted that calls for service regarding fireworks are considered one of the lower priority calls given to patrol officers. However, the officers often will be on other calls in the neighborhood and can stop by a location to warn residents or issue citations for possible fireworks violations.
Many warnings or conversations do not result in citations, Ortega said, noting that in 2019 there were 22 citations issued by PPD to citizens for violation of the municipal code or fire code. In 2020, there were only four.
The violations are considered by the Pueblo County Municipal Court, which sets fines usually for the first violations, but can escalate to arson charges if the matters worsen or persist. Non-emergency calls can be directed to the Pueblo Police Department at 553-2502.
Chieftain reporter Heather Willard can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @HeatherDWrites.