Communities urge caution, ban fireworks, burning

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published July 1, 2016

Michigan’s dry. It’s no surprise.

Although no statewide fireworks ban has been instituted, many local communities are restricting burning and fireworks until further notice.

In just one week, Michigan has more than doubled the area considered dry. During the week of June 21, 13.02 percent of the state was abnormally dry, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. When the state was monitored on June 28, that increased to 31.47 percent.

Despite rain on July 1, West Bloomfield Fire Marshal Byron Turnquist said “everything is still brown and dry. It’s going to take a couple of rains before stuff starts to green up and be safer.”

The Fireworks Safety Act of 2011 does not indicate whether or not local municipalities can ban fireworks during dry conditions, according to Jeannie Vogel, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

However, fire departments still have a card in their back pocket — the state’s fire prevention code.

Per the state’s fire prevention code, “if the state fire marshal or commanding officers of the fire department of a city, village, township or county, or a firefighter in uniform acting under the orders and directions of the commanding officer determines a dangerous condition exists,” said parties “may take all necessary steps and prescribe all necessary restrictions and requirements to protect persons and property until the dangerous condition is abated.”

In addition, “many local jurisdictions have ordinances where they can institute burning bans,” Vogel said in an email.

The following municipalities have banned fireworks or burning until further notice:

• Farmington banned the use of any type of fireworks and combustible material.
• Farmington Hills banned the use of fireworks.
• Canton Township banned the use of fireworks and recreational fires on all properties.
• Dearborn Heights banned fireworks and open fires.
• Ecorse banned use and discharge of fireworks and open burning.
• New Baltimore banned open burning. Any burn permits previously issued are invalid.
• Livingston County Fire Chiefs have banned open burning. This includes Northfield Township, Hamburg Township, Green Oak Township, Putnam Township, Unadilla Township, Hartland/Deerfield Fire Area and Howell Area Fire.
• Pontiac banned recreation fires and recommends residents practice caution when discharging fireworks.
• Waterford Township banned all recreational fires and recommends residents practice caution when discharging fireworks.
• Oxford Township/Oxford Village banned fireworks and burning.
• Orion Township banned bonfires and brush fires. Campfires will be permitted under certain guidelines.
• Washington Township banned fireworks and open burning.
• Holly banned fireworks and open burning.

• Shelby Township has banned fireworks, the use of fire pits, and bonfires and campfires.

The following communities are suggesting residents refrain from discharging fireworks:
• St. Clair Shores
• Clawson
• West Bloomfield
• Orchard Lake
• Keego Harbor
• Sylvan Lake
• Royal Oak

The state fire marshal and the Department of Natural Resources are reportedly evaluating the situation; however, no recommendations have been made at the state level to ban fireworks in high-risk areas, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ Bureau of Fire Services. In addition, statewide bans are currently not being considered.

Consumer fireworks, low-impact fireworks and novelty fireworks are legal in the state, but Turnquist said that with the dry conditions, these are all dangerous, even the smoke balls.

“People don’t think those are dangerous, but there’s a little flame that goes out of it, and it can cause a fire.”

The safest place to watch fireworks, he said, is a professional show. If fireworks start a grass fire, Turnquist said that in just 10 seconds, the damage can be devastating. Residents should have a fire extinguisher and/or hose nearby if discharging fireworks.

“It could quickly spread to a house or business, wherever they’re using the fireworks. Once this rain dries up, everything is going to be dry underneath and still hazardous.” 

For updates on whether there is a ban in your community, visit your municipality’s website or social media page.