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Everyone loves fireworks. In theory that’s probably true, but in reality, fireworks are troublesome for many of our friends and neighbors.
Jess Bayles’ 7-year-old son is one of several young children in Meeker with noise-sensitivity related to autism.
“If we know they’re coming, we can warn him, someone can hold him, and he has noise-canceling headphones,” Bayles said. That’s how they deal with planned fireworks displays. Illegal fireworks present a different problem.
“A week or two ago someone was shooting off mortars near our house. It was at bedtime and it took an extra hour and a half to get him to bed.” Bayles said it’s not the initial shock that’s hardest on her son, it’s the increased anxiety and the hours it takes for him to get back to his “baseline” where he feels safe again.
Children and adults with autism or other noise-sensitivity issues are not the only residents who struggle with fireworks — particularly the unscheduled ones. Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be triggered by fireworks. An article on the U.S. Marine Corps Community Services website (https://usmc-mccs.org/articles/fireworks-and-ptsd-how-to-raise-awareness/) says increasing awareness and having a conversation about the impact of fireworks on veterans is important.
“Although not every individual who lives with PTSD may be affected, many veterans are stepping up to raise awareness of those who might be,” the article states, adding that veterans affected can “mentally prepare” for planned community displays, but unanticipated fireworks can “set them on edge.”
Fireworks are also hard on family pets. One report from 2015 says there is a 30% increase in the number of missing pets around the Fourth of July.
Pet owners can plan ahead for scheduled fireworks displays. Meeker veterinarian Stacy Hudleson says there are steps pet owners can take to prepare.
“There are some easy things; playing fans, radios, etc., to lessen the sound of the fireworks. I put my dogs in the downstairs bedroom, lights off, with fan and radio on. And I use sedatives, and there are some oral meds that work quite well for dogs.”
As for those unscheduled, unplanned fireworks, it’s a good idea to know what’s legal and illegal in the State of Colorado before you get out the matches and set off your own private fireworks show. Legal fireworks in the State of Colorado “may not contain more than 50 milligrams of explosive composition.” Fountains, ground spinners, illuminating torches, dipped sticks and sparklers, toy propellants, trick noise makers and tube devices are listed as permissible.
Illegal fireworks include firecrackers, rockets (including bottle rockets) roman candles, cherry bombs, mortars and similar items, such as M-80s.
Violations of the state’s fireworks law is a Class 3 misdemeanor with fines of $50 to $750 and up to six months in jail. If illegal fireworks start a fire, fines can go up to $750,000 or up to 12 years in jail. Offenders can also be ordered to pay for property destroyed, injuries caused, and costs for emergency responders. Offenders can also be sued by victims who are “impacted by the criminal or irresponsible activity.”
Meeker Chief of Police Ed Thompson and Rangely Chief of Police Ti Hamblin said state law in regards to fireworks is applicable in both communities.
By NIKI TURNER | firstname.lastname@example.org