Clara Butler sells fireworks at the huge Hale’s Fireworks tent on South Limit Avenue. Butler knows the Sedalia area is a tinderbox due to dry conditions but thinks people can still celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks if they exercise caution.
“I'm obviously not going to say don't come out here and buy these fireworks, come out and get them,” Butler said, “but be responsible when you're lighting them.”
Simple precautions can help keep annual fireworks celebrations from becoming destructive and possibly dangerous blazes.
“Make sure you’ve got a bucket of water somewhere this year,” Butler said. “Soak your fireworks after you shoot them, don't put them in the trash can immediately because you will have your trash can on fire.”
Staff can suggest age-appropriate fireworks to make certain injuries aren’t incurred by the misuse of pyrotechnics.
“We’ve got different sections, novelties for the littler kids, and then kind of gets bigger as your age groups go,” Butler said, “but we can help you find something if you're questioning.”
Asked if there was anything new in fireworks this year, Hale’s employees pointed to one powerful new blockbuster.
“We've got 500-gram cakes that just blow your socks off,” Butler said.
These fireworks sound a report so loud they can be heard blocks away. It can be an unfamiliar noise and can be scary to some animals.
Butler and her brother Dylan often work the stand with their dog Mona. Mona hardly notices the crackle of fireworks, but most dogs do fear them.
“The biggest thing from us,” Butler warned, “please secure your animals. They don't like fireworks going off, and you're going to have to chase them. We don't want that for your puppy.”
Sedalia Fire Chief Matt Irwin also had a few pointers for those considering fireworks this holiday.
“Fireworks are fine,” Irwin said, “but it's awful dry out there. Inside the city limits, you can't shoot them; you can't discharge fireworks inside the city limits by ordinance and by fire code.”
Sedalia city ordinance prohibits consumers from buying or using fireworks within city limits. Area fireworks retailers can be found just outside the city limits, as sales are allowed in Pettis County.
A Sedalia man was arrested earlier this week for setting off fireworks within the city limits, and police will fine or arrest offenders.
“So if you're going to discharge fireworks, you have to move to the county or someplace that allows them to be shot,” Irwin said Wednesday. “I've reached out to (Pettis County Fire Protection District) Chief (Mike) Harding to see if they're going to allow fireworks in the county; I'm not sure at this point. But you can't shoot them in the city. If you're going to shoot them out in the county, you need to be very careful.”
On May 31, Gov. Mike Parson declared a drought alert for 60 Missouri counties, including Pettis and Johnson counties, and any others that may experience drought conditions this summer. Pettis County has been under a burn ban since June 17 due to drought conditions and the City of Sedalia has been under a burn ban since June 2. The bans are in effect until further notice.
On Wednesday afternoon, the PCFPD shared a news release on its Facebook page stating the Pettis County Commission has declared a state of emergency due to extreme drought conditions. The announcement comes after the commissioners discussed drought conditions and a burn ban recommendation from Pettis County Fire during its daily meeting on Wednesday morning.
The release states that the PCFPD, commission and Pettis County Sheriff’s Office “strongly discourage” the use of aerial fireworks.
“The burn ban consists of any open flame, with the exception of a BBQ grill with a lid. We are asking all citizens of Pettis County to do their part to prevent any unnecessary fires,” the release states. “The Pettis County Commission, Pettis County Sheriff's Department, and the Pettis County Fire Protection District #1 wishes everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July. Please celebrate safely and responsibly.”
Chief Irwin stresses responsibility and common sense when using fireworks and wants to remind people that the fire they accidentally start may be very costly to others and them.
“If you discharge a firework and it catches the hay field on fire, you're liable for the damage of that fire,” Irwin warned. “You need to use common sense. The City is going to be having a fireworks show (on Tuesday, July 4 on the Missouri State Fairgrounds), so come out and watch that, you know, enjoy that until we get some wetter weather.”
Chris Howell can be reached at 660-530-0146.