Fireworks displays

WEDNESDAY

Colorado National Golf Club in Erie: Festivities begin at 5 p.m.; see erieco.gov

THURSDAY

Folsom Field in Boulder: Gates open at 8 p.m.; see boulder4thofjuly.com

Broomfield County Commons Park: Celebration begins at 5:30 p.m.; see broomfield.org

Waneka Lake in Lafayette: Celebration begins at 4 p.m.; see lafayettecolorado.com

Coal Creek Golf Course in Louisville: Events begin at 6 p.m.; see louisvilleco.gov

Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont: Fireworks planned for 9:30 p.m.; see ci.longmont.co.us

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park: Celebration begins at noon; see visitestespark.com

For many Americans, setting off a few whiz-bang firecrackers at home is as much a part of the annual Fourth of July tradition as watching a large-scale professional display.

But facing strict enforcement of local laws, Boulder County residents should make sure they're up to speed on what's permitted in their area before lighting any fountains, spinners or sparklers this year.

After exceedingly high fire danger last summer resulted in a fireworks ban in all areas of unincorporated Boulder County, the Sheriff's Office this year has confined its restrictions to the western foothills.

Fireworks of any kind are prohibited in unincorporated parts of the county west of North and South Foothills Highway, as well as in the Rabbit Mountain open space and in the town of Lyons, according to Jay Stalnacker, of the Sheriff's Office.

Stalnacker, the county's fire management officer, noted that by Colorado law any firework that leaves the ground, such as a bottle rocket or Roman candle, is already illegal, but local officials have decided to allow ground-based fireworks in some areas this year.

"Last year we had a much higher threat with our grasses and we had a couple of early-season fires started by fireworks and bottle rockets, and we were a little bit nervous that would continue," Stalnacker said. "(This year) there is a little bit more of a buffer, and we don't feel it necessary to impact the entire county with those restrictions."

Sheriff's officials will be patrolling high-traffic areas in western Boulder County for illegal fireworks use, Stalnacker said, and will be helping the city of Longmont and the U.S. Forest Service with their fireworks enforcement efforts.

Individual cities and towns in Boulder County are enforcing their own fireworks restrictions.

While Erie is advising residents to leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, the town code permits the use of cylindrical and cone fountains, wheels and ground spinners, illuminating torches, sparklers and toy smoke devices, among other small novelties.

Longmont residents could face fines of $250 to $500 if they set off any sort of fireworks besides sparklers, cylindrical or cone fountains that emit showers of sparks no more than 14 inches high, ground spinners, snakes, glow worms and other devices that emit smoke and crackle or whistle.

But no matter what fireworks Longmont residents buy, they must set them off on private property. Under city ordinance, even fireworks set off in the middle of a residential street could result in confiscation or a citation, according to Michael Selan, of the Longmont Fire Department.

Nederland is employing a zero-tolerance policy on the use of fireworks in town limits this year, and Boulder and Lafayette have banned the possession, sale and use of fireworks in their boundaries, threatening fines as high as $1,000 and -- in Boulder's case -- even arrests.

Boulder Fire Marshal Dave Lowery said the way the city defines fireworks, even confetti party poppers and tiny paper snappers are technically illegal.

Lowery said thousands of fires are caused by fireworks each year.

"We live right there at the edge of the mountains and certainly a small fire can develop into a large fire, and it's not just losing a home, it could be losing part of our community," he said.

Nancy Encinias and her husband are owners of Joe's Mile-High Fireworks, a stand that has operated in Boulder County for 29 years, only closing for two years when statewide fireworks bans were being enforced. While sales this year have been a little slow at the stand, at 4760 28th St. just outside of Boulder, Encinias said she is hopeful the pace will pick up just before the Fourth.

Encinias said she only sells Colorado-legal fireworks and always instructs her customers on basic safety practices such as wetting down the areas where they will be setting off their fireworks in advance, and making sure to submerge spent items in water before throwing them in the trash.

"The most important thing is we hope everyone has a safe and happy and healthy Fourth of July," she said.

Area residents are advised to check with their local fire department to make sure they are in compliance with regulations before setting off any fireworks this year, but Stalnacker hopes people will skip the home fireworks tradition altogether.

"The probability of fire occurrence is extremely high this time of year, whether it be natural or human-caused," he said. "This week holds the highest probability for a large fire annually because of those two factors and the current weather and fuels conditions. I think what is important right now is the community has an awareness that these conditions exist and our behaviors can make the difference between us having a safe and enjoyable holiday or a tragic or disastrous holiday."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com.