In a 3 to 2 vote, El Paso county commissioners banned the sale, use and possession of all fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July.
Commissioners Anna Perez and Willie Gandara Jr. voted for the ban. Commissioners Dan Haggerty and Sergio Lewis voted against it. County Judge Veronica Escobar, who proposed the ban, broke the tie.
More than 100 people showed up for the emergency meeting at the county courthouse, and 25 people signed up to speak on the issue. Most of them seem to have some tie to the local fireworks industry and want to prevent the first complete ban of fireworks from going into effect.
Judge Escobar started the meeting with a presentation highlighting the county's extreme fire dangers.
Escobar told the crowd there have been 73 grass fires in the county in the last 2 weeks.
She said the current drought index is 693 and rising, and without any rain in the forecast, the index is predicted to reach 714 by July 4. The number needed to institute an aerial fireworks ban is 575 or above.
El Paso county has already approved the aerial fireworks ban preventing people from selling and using rockets with sticks and missiles with fins only. The rest of the fireworks are allowed. Commissioners usually approve such a ban leading into the Independence Day celebrations.
The ban approved by commissioners, though, restricts the sale and use of all fireworks.
The restrictions do not apply to professional displays, including the ones offered by Music Under the Stars, the Diablos baseball games and the Downtown Streetfest.