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Official backs ending fireworks ban

Assistant County Attorney Bill Buztrey says rains have reduced the threat of fires.

By KATHERINE BLOK

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- The county attorney's office will suggest today that the County Commission repeal a ban on the sale and use of fireworks in Hernando.

The county could have waited for Gov. Jeb Bush to repeal the statewide emergency drought order, Assistant County Attorney Bill Buztrey said. However, the immediate danger from the drought has lessened over the past week because of increased rainfall, and county Fire Chief Mike Nickerson said the use of fireworks would not likely cause a fire, Buztrey said.

Nickerson was not available for comment Monday afternoon.

The county first imposed a ban on the use of fireworks, and later banned their sale, because of the danger of fires during the drought.

However, fireworks are "not likely to cause the same situation (they would have) three weeks ago," Buztrey said Monday. If the repeal is not enacted at today's commission meeting, he said, the "selling season would essentially be over."

Buztrey said he has spoken with a number of fireworks businesses that have suggested the ban be repealed because of the lower threat of fires. He said that while no companies have threatened to bring any lawsuits against the county for a loss of business due to the ban, some have hinted that they might consider legal action.

"We have to act within the bounds of the law, too," Buztrey said. "What reasons do we have to limit a lawful business (selling) a lawful product?"

County Commission Chairman Paul Sullivan said Monday afternoon that he had not heard anything about a recommendation to repeal the ban and would discuss the situation with fire officials before casting a vote.

"I don't think that because we had rain five days in a row that we are fireproof in this county," Sullivan said. "Until the fire department tells us that we are okay to do away with the ban, I won't support (lifting the ban)."

The county prohibited the use of fireworks in late March. Under a June 6 ordinance, the sale of fireworks and sparklers was prohibited in all of the county's unincorporated areas. County Administrator Paul McIntosh asked authorities in Brooksville and Weeki Wachee to enact similar bans.

The Brooksville City Council was scheduled to discuss a possible ban Monday night. Weeki Wachee authorities were not availble for comment.

Pasco County repealed its fireworks ban Monday, after Hillsborough County's repeal Friday.

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