There will be no fireworks display at Cam-plex this year.
Campbell County Commissioners decided Monday afternoon to ban all fires in Campbell County — which would include all fireworks — and the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department canceled the fireworks show.
The fire ban that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday also could affect your Fourth of July cookout if you’re trying to cook in the county since it restricts people from using charcoal in their grills.
Commissioners said they had little choice but to enact the fire ban and cancel the fireworks show because of the extreme fire danger in the county caused by more than a week of record-breaking temperatures and moisture-zapping winds.
On Tuesday morning, commissioners also banned the sale of fireworks. That ban was to begin at noon, effectively cutting off 36 hours of fireworks sales because they would have ended at midnight Wednesday under earlier rules.
Fire Chief Don Huber painted a dire picture of what conditions are inside the county.
“We’re right on this boundary between bad and really bad,” he said.
The amount of moisture in the grass is already below what it had been in 2002, the year of the Daly Draw fire, and he expected that the trees had dried out beyond that point as well.
“The only thing that’s saving Campbell County right now is we’re not getting anything in the timber,” Huber said.
“We’re in for trouble — big trouble,” said Buddy Cater, chairman of the fire board.
The public fireworks display has never been canceled by a ban in its 32-year history in Gillette. The display was delayed by a day in 1991 by heavy rains, “but I don’t remember it ever being canceled by how dry it was,” said Dave McCormick, executive director of the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department. “This has everybody pretty concerned.”
McCormick also said public comments he’s heard so far are that residents are disappointed but “totally understand because of how dry it is.”
The county’s ban on fires could have another impact in Fourth of July celebrations planned at Bicentennial Park too.
Officials with the City of Gillette will allow charcoal grills to be used during the annual free hot dog feed on Wednesday.
A city official also said Wednesday that charcoal grills can be used within the city limits despite a ban approved by Campbell County officials on Tuesday afternoon.
The city was asked to rule on the issue Tuesday.
McCormick asked the city for a ruling on the issue. While the county operates Bicentennial Park, it is within the city’s limits.
“We plan to go ahead and use our charcoal grill,” McCormick said Wednesday afternoon. The county ban refers to all unincorporated lands within Campbell County, he added.
County parks and recreation officials expect to grill 6,000 hot dogs at noon Wednesday in the annual Fourth of July hot dog feed.
“Carter (Napier, city administrator) feels we’re OK,” McCormick added. “So we will proceed as usual.”
The county’s ban
Last week, commissioners had enacted a partial ban that allowed restricted use of fireworks outside of the city limits. The partial ban also allowed welding, which is important to some Campbell County businesses.
But that all changed in five days. Now all forms of outdoor burning are banned:
Only federal, state, local fire or law enforcement officers are allowed to get around the rules and that is for emergencies, law enforcement or fire fighting, like back-burning used to cut a fire’s source of fuel.
Huber did not advocate for or against the ban at the Monday meeting attended by Commissioners Matt Avery, Steve Hughes and Chris Knapp.
As of Monday morning, he had expected the Cam-plex fireworks to go through after touring the grounds with McCormick. Precautions included the Wyoming Department of Transportation cutting grass down near Highway 51.
Later in the day, McCormick said he wanted to cancel the fireworks show, something Huber said he could support.
Huber told commissioners they could expect heat from angry citizens if they enacted a ban.
“I’m not going to have to field those calls; I’m trying to help you here,” Huber said.
Railroads, and power lines were responsible for fires as well, he said, not just fireworks.
“I want to make sure we ban the right thing,” he said.
Huber estimated that there have been about 50 wildlands fires in the county since May and three of those have been caused by fireworks so far. The cause of 12 fires are undetermined.
The ban on welding in the county could be felt by businesses like oil rigs, but Hughes said those businesses could take parts that needed to be welded into an indoor location, where the ban would not apply.
He believes it is unfair to ban fireworks, and not other human activities that were responsible for causing fires.
“My point ... was why would you ban something that causes 1 percent of the fires, and not ban something that causes 5 percent of the fires?” Knapp said.
A later fireworks show?
It’s possible that there will be a fireworks show later in the year, but it won’t be on the Fourth of July. The Parks and Recreation department spent $28,000 on the fireworks.
“We hope that we’ll be able to use it later in the year,” McCormick said.
Some of the shells had already been wired, so that will now be removed and the Parks and Recreation Department has asked the Campbell County Fire Department on its advice on where and how to store the fireworks, he said.
“We may have to rent a trailer (to store the fireworks), McCormick said. “We’ll just kind of play it by ear.”
Although rain is forecasted after Wednesday in Gillette, he doesn’t expect it to be enough to erase the dry conditions in the county.
“We may not be able to do it this summer. Over the next month or so, we’ll discuss some ideas for what we can do,” McCormick added.
At the meeting, the commissioners seemed interested in putting on a display sometime in winter, perhaps a Christmas or New Year’s celebration. But McCormick isn’t sure the electronics required would work under those conditions.
Meanwhile, the county will maintain its ban, and hope conditions don’t get any worse.
“We all hope we can get some rain and lift this ban soon,” Hughes said.
Campbell County isn’t the only community that has reconsidered fireworks displays this year. In consideration of the extreme fire dangers and fires that are burning throughout the state and West, several have canceled their fireworks shows.
Gov. Matt Mead also has asked people to avoid fireworks and open burning.
The Game and Fish Department, state lands and parks all have bans in place.
The Town of Wright was meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday to consider banning all fireworks.