AURORA, Colo. — Law enforcement and fire investigators are stepping up their resources to stop illegal firework activity on the Fourth of July. After a citywide ban due to dry conditions and high fire risk this year, Aurora police officers and arson investigators with Aurora Fire Rescue are teaming up to confiscate fireworks.
"Instead of responding to a call that is maybe five or 10 minutes old, we are actually catching people in the process of using a jump to light that mortar or that fountain,” said Kenneth Forrest, spokesperson with the Aurora Police Department.
Patrols began over the weekend and will last through July 4. At least nine patrol teams plan to search for illegal firework use Wednesday night and will confiscate them from citizens. Once seized, the fireworks are brought back to Aurora police headquarters. Officers said the fireworks will be destroyed in a controlled manner on a later date.
Officers and investigators are actively issuing tickets for those who break the law and use fireworks. People can receive a ticket up to a few thousand dollars for having fireworks or setting them off — $2,650 in the city of Aurora, plus any additional court fees. The exact amount depends on the judge's decision in court and the exchange between the patrol team and the individual.
Authorities said that grass fires caused by fireworks are another threat. Crews have already responded to at least six fires in Aurora started from fireworks. One of those fires spread near homes in Horseshoe Park near the intersection of E. Mexico Avenue and S. Laredo Street.
”Fortunately, we haven't lost structures, but what about human life?” said Tony Krenz, public information officer for Aurora Fire Rescue. “We do not want any injuries or death for community members because of carelessness and people not caring about fireworks laws."
Emergency responders ask residents not to call 911 if they spot illegal firework activity unless it is an emergency situation. The 911 system becomes bogged down over the Fourth of July with these types of calls, making it harder for authorities to respond to more urgent emergencies. Instead, call a local non-emergency line to report illegal fireworks.