Fireworks fun, but menace to police

The Jackpot can reach upwards of 40 feet in the air. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent

In the world of fireworks, the Jackpot is just that for both pyrotechnic aficionados and sellers of the products this year.

Priced around $35, the multiple-shot rocket has a cannon-sized body and is what fireworks stand owner Dee Wieland describes as “the grand finale” to any non-professional celebration on July 4.

“I would probably stand back a good 40 feet,” said Wieland, who runs fireworks stand with husband Mike just west of Clovis.

The Jackpot can be bought and shot off outside city limits only.

It’s actually smaller airborne rockets that are a more serious threat to public safety, according to Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher.

“Any fireworks that are less than a half-an-inch in diameter — whether it’s a skyrocket, a bottle rocket, a missile, anything like that — it is prohibited (outside and inside city limits),” Hatcher says. “The reason being is that, less than that, it doesn’t get high enough in the air to extinguish itself completely before it gets back to the ground.”

Hatcher points to the current wheat crop as particularly vulnerable to fire right now.

“Those fields are ready to go up. You could look at it and it could catch on fire,” Hatcher says. “A farmer could get ruined by a bottle rocket.”

Curry County deputies are on the verge, according to Hatcher, of visiting each of the 10 temporary fireworks businesses stationed in the county. Each will be warned not to sell the products deemed illegal in the county.

“Every single year, we have distributors come in here and try to sell those things. Every single year, we get complaints from the other distributors who do not sell them,” Hatcher said. “This is going to be the very last year we warn anybody. It’s a petty misdemeanor and, according to the ordinance, I am to seize the fireworks, seize the permit and shut it down.”

At the Wielands’ stand, which has been operating for the last eight years on a plot of land owned by the family, everything from sparklers to frogs to Roman candles are offered.

“Right now, we’re selling a lot of sparklers. Most of the big stuff doesn’t sell right ‘til the end,” Wieland says. “We sell nothing illegal in the county. Some of our stuff would be illegal in the city.”

Actually, according to Clovis Fire Chief Ron Edwards, quite a bit of fireworks being sold in the county are not legal in the city.

“No aerial devices, anything designed to go in the air, or ground audible devices, designed to make noise, are permitted,” said Edwards, who has signed permits for seven businesses within the city to sell a limited variety of fireworks.

“Our problem is that people go outside of the city limits, buy them, and bring them back,” Edwards said.

Hatcher and the county can relate to the city’s problem.
“In Texas, a lot of these things are not illegal, so the people can go over there and buy them,” Hatcher said.