Flathead County has banned the use of fireworks on all public and private land located within the county’s boundaries, outside of the city limits, effective immediately.
The commission took a hard stand against fireworks on Thursday morning, removing any exemptions for previously permitted shows in the county’s jurisdiction.
With the use of fireworks banned, the Flathead Emergency Communication Center, also known as the 911 Center, has set up a separate line to report non-emergency fireworks violations.
The number to that line is 260-4161, and it feeds directly into the dispatch center. Emergencies such as injuries or fires should be reported to 911. There is no automatic fine assessed for violations, according to deputy county attorney Tara Fugina; the resolution states that violations may be prosecuted under applicable statutes.
According to Sheriff Chuck Curry, this means anyone caught violating the ban can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, punishable with a fine up to $500 and six months in jail.
When adopting the resolution to ban the use of fireworks, Commissioner Gary Krueger asked for legal advice about nullifying any permits already issued, like that for Eddie DeBartolo Jr.’s Candy Bar Ranch.
Initially, the commission was told that they would have to host a separate hearing on canceling those permits and allow the permit holder to speak for their show. Instead, the commission merely amended the resolution, striking the line that exempted previously permitted shows.
“We have to say no fireworks, period. It’s a fire hazard we’re discussing here,” Krueger said.
Commissioners Pam Holmquist and Phil Mitchell agreed with Krueger’s assessment, and Mitchell noted that Flathead County is one of the last in western Montana to enact such a ban.
“We’re late on this and we need to do it,” Mitchell said.
Whitefish Fire Chief Joe Page told the commission that his department would be on hand to cover the fireworks show at City Beach.
When asked if he could immediately cancel the Whitefish show given the dry conditions and the forecast for winds up to 20 miles per hour on July 4 and 5, Page said he has the authority to cancel the show at any time, and that he wanted to make sure any cancelation is based on the latest facts and data.
“If there is 20-an-hour wind, we’ll definitely cancel the show,” Page said.
[UPDATE: The Whitefish City Beach show has been canceled, per the Whitefish City Council.]
There were no permits issued for fireworks shows in Lakeside or Bigfork.
“This is a complete ban on the use of fireworks in the Flathead County area outside municipalities,” Krueger said.
The commission also unanimously voted to declare a state of emergency in Flathead County, which means the county will be able to access funds to help cover the cost if there is a significant fire to fight.
Lake, Missoula, Ravalli, and Lincoln counties banned the use of fireworks on Tuesday, and firework use is also banned in Columbia Falls and Kalispell city limits. Fireworks are not allowed on state or federal land or in Glacier National Park.
Emergency services coordinators for Lake County along with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the cities of Polson, Ronan and St. Ignatius agreed at a meeting to ban the use of fireworks immediately.
The area will be in Stage 1 fire restrictions starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 3, which mean campfires are prohibited except in designated areas, like fire rings at developed campgrounds.
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