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Jul 2, 2012 2:11 PM

Fayette County Bans Personal Fireworks

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray on Monday announced the Division of Fire and Emergency Services has issued a total ban on the use of common and consumer fireworks.

The ban will remain in effect until the Division lifts the outdoor burning ban it issued last week.

Gray said the ban will not affect the five fireworks public displays that already have permits, including the community fireworks held downtown on July 4, and the Red, White and Boom display on July 7 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

"Grass fires are up dramatically because of the extreme conditions ... the heat and dry weather," Gray said. The 100-plus readings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday made it the second-hottest three-day stretch on record for Lexington, second only to a stretch in July 1936. "We've had 135 grass fires in the past 2 weeks in Lexington. Normally we would have no more than a handful in that time." Gray said. The cause of 11 of those fires was traced to the use of fireworks. Others are related to lightning or cigarette butts, which recently caught mulch on fire at an apartment building and a church. Fire officials are unaware of any serious injuries related to the fires. They encouraged property owners and managers to keep mulch damp.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," Gray said. "The decision we're announcing today will not be popular with some, but it's the right thing to do ... the safe thing to do. We must do what we can to stop fires before they start."

The ban applies to fireworks that stay on the ground and those that are shot up into the air. Both can start fires.

The city has already responded to numerous calls about fireworks. In addition to raising concerns about fires, many citizens complain about noise. A city ordinance enacted last year restricts the use of fireworks after 10 p.m. to three days, July 3 and 4 and December 31.

Forecasters predict that temperatures will not reach triple digits this week. Therefore, after today, there are no immediate plans to continue to expand hours at Dunbar Center for those who need a place to cool off. Pool admittance prices, which have remained at half-price since Friday, are expected to return to normal Tuesday.

"We want everyone to have fun celebrating the Fourth," Gray said. "But we want them to be safe, as well. The best way to do that is to come on downtown for the Fourth, and enjoy our community fireworks."

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