Missouri cities say no to fireworks amid dry conditions

Thursday, June 28, 2012 | 3:49 p.m. CDT; updated 6:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 2, 2012

CAPE GIRARDEAU — As soaring temperatures scorch Missouri, some communities are canceling their Fourth of July fireworks displays or telling residents not to shoot off their personal stashes of bottle rockets and Roman candles.

"As much as we all love celebrating the Fourth with fireworks, this is not a year in which we can take the chances that our dry conditions present," Perryville Mayor Debbie Gahan said in an email.

The cities of Salem, Farmington and Dexter also canceled public displays amid the dry conditions. Meanwhile, the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood planned to keep tabs on the forecast and make a decision next week, said Beth von Behren, a city spokeswoman.

"We are being cautious," she said Thursday.

Similarly, Columbia fire officials warned that a fireworks show could be cancelled if the dry weather continues and winds are high, KOMU reported.

The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories for several sections of the state, including eastern and southwestern Missouri and the St. Louis area. The U.S. Drought Monitor also said several Missouri counties are experiencing extreme drought conditions.

While larger Missouri cities such as St. Louis and Springfield routinely bar backyard fireworks, several more are doing the same this year because of the fire risk. They include New Madrid, Matthews, Bloomfield, Advance, Bell City, Essex, Bertrand and Fair Grove.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that a burn ban for Nixa is expected to remain in effect through the Fourth of July, preventing residents from shooting off fireworks. Other restrictions were more limited, with the town of Gideon allowing fireworks only on the actual Independence Day holiday.

In places where fireworks are allowed, officials urged residents to hold off on the explosives.

Fireworks went on sale Wednesday in Cape Girardeau, but city officials were begging residents not to use them, the Southeast Missourian reported. Fire chief Rick Ennis said an outright fireworks ban was discussed, but officials didn't think it would be enforceable.

"So instead, we're hoping to discourage people from using fireworks," Ennis said. "We're hoping people have enough common sense that they won't do it this year."

A similar approach is being taken in Blue Springs, where the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District planned to pass out fliers at fireworks tents warning residents of the risks, The Examiner in Independence reported.

"It's worrying us a lot," said Ed Saffell, assistant fire chief with the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. "Basically we're just giving them our concerns, that the drought condition has made everything very dry, and that we prefer you don't use fireworks."

Ben Webster, fire program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said most of the summer's fires are being contained to less than 20 acres. But a lack of rain has him worried that fires could grow larger, putting firefighters forced to battle them in the beating sun at risk for heat-related illnesses.

The weather service says highs across the state are expected to be above 100 — and nearing the 105 mark — until Saturday. On Wednesday, record highs were recorded in Mansfield at 97 and Sikeston, where the high was 101.

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