Posted: Jun 19, 2012 5:51 PM by Andy Koen
Updated: Jun 19, 2012 6:03 PM
Almost everything for sale at Big Top Fireworks in Pueblo County is illegal for customers to use under the statewide fire ban. However, owner John Musso is perfectly within his rights to stay open for businesses.
"When they walk in we tell them you can buy them but I don't know what you're going to do to shoot them," Musso said.
The fireworks ban only extends to use, not to sales. In fact, state fire controllers say a blanket sales ban wouldn't be appropriate.
Penny Lee, an administrator with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control which licenses fireworks vendors, says there are legitimate reasons that someone would buy fireworks despite the ban.
"If people are going out of state, if they're going up to Wyoming or if they're going out to Kansas and they're planning a Fourth of July party and they're picking some fireworks up as they head out of town, you know, and they're not going to shoot them off in Colorado then they can do that," she explained.
Her office has licensed 275 fireworks stands this year. However, those vendors must also receive local permits.
Musso, who has sold fireworks in Pueblo for more than 60 years, says simply closing up shop would create a financial hardship.
"You still have that product, so you eventually have to do something with that product because you have to pay for it."
There are also seasonal jobs at stake. Musso says in the past he's hired around 140 employees to work at his stands. As it is, he only expects to hire around 25 this season because the stage one fire bans in the cities of Pueblo and Colorado Springs limit him to operating just in the county.
And Musso points out that hundreds of people in Pueblo buy fireworks off the black market. He says just last week he chased off a young man who was soliciting customers in his parking lot trying to sell them fireworks he'd purchased in Wyoming.
"People are still going to get fireworks, there were more fireworks shot in Pueblo last year with the fire ban than if we were open to sell."
Lee says her office will soon be asking, but not mandating, that fireworks stand operators who remain open to follow Musso's example in notifying customers that it is illegal to shoot the fireworks within the state.