Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Local officials ready to enforce burning bans, hope for rain

June 28, 2012

Unless it rains this weekend, or early next week, smokey and sparkly stuff will be banned in Lake Geneva for the Fourth of July.

Lake Geneva Fire Chief Brent Connelly issued a ban on Tuesday on all consumer fireworks use and open burning. The ban is now in effect.

Police Chief Mike Rasumussen said the Lake Geneva police will stringently enforce the ban.

"We'll be handing out tickets and confiscating," Rasmussen said.

Usually, Lake Geneva and other Walworth County communities follow state law when it comes to firey patriotic displays. Sparklers, small smoke bombs and the snakelike burners are allowed. But if it flies, moves or explodes, it is forbidden without a permit from the city.

That hasn't stopped amateur pyrotechnics in the past.

But Rasmussen said with the current drought, and the dryness of vegetation, his officers won't hesitate to confiscate any fireworks and cite the owners.

Rasmussen said in the past, enforcement would be on a complaint basis, and warnings were usually issued for first offenses.

With the ban in effect, however, officers will actively enforce local ordinance, and citations rather than warnings will issued.

"Not that we don't otherwise, but with this weather we can't ignore it," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said he's hoping for rain before the Fourth, but he also said with July 4 falling on Wednesday this year, he is hoping that might reduce the number of visitors to the city and the number of incidents involving illegal fireworks.

While Lake Geneva has gone to a complete ban on anything combustible, other communities are still considering bans.

In Walworth, Police Chief Christ Severt said his officers will strictly enforce the ban on aerial fireworks. In past years, Severt said his department only enforced the fireworks ban if it became a problem.

Police chiefs in Williams Bay and Delavan say they'll still follow state law.

Fireworks that fly or move are prohibited without a permit. Ground works, such as smokers and sparklers are still legal.

"Normally what we're doing is confiscating rather than ticketing," said Williams Bay Police Chief Robert Pruessing.

However, because of the recent drought, the village board is considering a burning ban. Whether that will affect the use of ground works is still unknown.

Fireworks, however, are generally verboten in Williams Bay.

"If it moves, jumps, flies or whatever, it requires a permit," Pruessing said. "And we don't issue permits for anything away from the lake for safety reasons."

Delavan Police Chief Tim O'Neill said fire officials have been discussing a burning ban in Delavan also.

Whether that will affect the city's fireworks ordinance is still unknown.

O'Neill added that residents should be aware police are enforcing the city's fireworks law.

He said police and fire personnel will be keeping an eye out in the city because of dry conditions.

"In response to the drought, we have extra personnel ready for the holiday," O'Neill said.

And the fire department and parks department are working together to make sure that the vegetation around Lake Comus, site of the city's Fourth of July fireworks, is properly watered and not in danger of catching fire if some fireworks debris happens to blow ashore, O'Neill said.

In a related note, the city council will consider a ban on the sales of fireworks in the city starting next year.

O'Neill said that proposal is not because of the drought, but rather a public safety issue.