Local burn bans affect firework sales

JACKSON COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The Arkansas Forestry Commission has listed an increasing number of counties under burn bans, with Jackson County being one of the latest.

The burn ban went into effect for the Newport area Friday, days after local firework stands were allowed to set up shop. Area vendors fear sales may dry up, as the Fourth of July holiday quickly approaches.

"My initial thought," Jesse Gates said, "burn ban, firework business, it's not going to be real good."

Gates has sold fireworks along Hwy. 367 in Tuckerman for the past 10 years. He is confronted by the unknown this year, as he questions how a burn ban will affect business.

"This is the first burn ban that we've gone through," Gates said about his business, "so we don't know how it's going to affect total sales."

His firework stand has, so far, seen a steady stream of about 10 customers a day since he opened last week, but almost every person has asked the same questions.

"Everyone that comes in right now asks, 'Can we shoot fireworks? If we buy these, are we going to be able to shoot them?'"

Gates tells customers, yes, for the time being. He says the City of Tuckerman has yet to ban kids from shooting off fireworks this year, but that may change with weather conditions staying hot and dry for the near future.

"Just don't shoot them," said Lt. Jonathan Anderson with the Newport Fire Department. "It takes very little to start a fire in this condition. You would be better off not starting a fire, not shooting fireworks."

Anderson says the fire chief placed the city under a burn ban two weeks before the county did. The City of Newport has an ordinance prohibiting people from shooting off fireworks inside city limits, but some disregard the rules.

"We always have people shooting them off regardless of the ordinance," Anderson said, "but, with the dry conditions, we do hope they keep in mind how dangerous it could be."

It remains to be seen if that danger may drive people away from Gates' firework stand.

"Best hope is for some rain, even a pop-up shower," he said. "We'll take anything we can get at this point."

The burn ban will remain in effect until there's considerable rain, according to Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips.

Phillips asked people, if they buy fireworks, save them and shoot them off once the drought has ended.

For a full list of counties under a burn ban click here.

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