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What Drought? Let the Fourth of July Fireworks Burn

/ Source: CNBC.com

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Severe drought conditions in the Southwest won't do much to put a damper on fireworks this Fourth of July weekend—not even in the state that's been hit the hardest.

"The drought is certainly raising concerns for firefighters, but we'll have about 300 towns and cities across the state holding their firework displays, which is normal for us," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

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Berlant said that the devastating drought in the Golden State, now in its third year, is not enough of a problem to prohibit firework displays or ban sales of "safe and legal" fireworks to residents.

But he said that fire officials across the state will be on high alert and be ready to put out any fires caused by fireworks.

California has had more than 2,500 wild fires so far this year — far beating the average of 800 a year, according to CAL FIRE.

Low water supplies from the drought as well as parched land have put an extra strain on firefighters in California and other Western states.

"We are urging people to be safe and make sure people check with their local fire departments to see what fireworks are allowed in their area," Berlant said.

Some limits

There have been attempts to limit fireworks in some areas this year because of drought conditions.

El Paso County in Texas banned the sale and use of fireworks by residents. New Mexico's Doña Ana County banned the use of all fireworks within areas that are covered wholly or in part by timber, brush or native grass.

But officials in Arizona loosened up firework restrictions this year for private citizens. And efforts to impose tougher regulations on fireworks by the governor of New Mexico throughout the state failed.

What's ironic is that the four states banning all consumer fireworks — New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Delaware — are not in a drought.

Residents of other states are advised to check their local laws on which fireworks are legal.

In California, illegal fireworks include sky rockets, bottle rockets, roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers and other types that explode, go into the air or "move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner."

Big bucks in fireworks

Reasons for allowing firework sales in drought states range from holiday patriotism to the effect a ban would have on local businesses that sell fireworks.

And firework displays and related sales are often used by charities to raise funds.

There's little doubt fireworks are big business. Last year, display fireworks revenue in the U.S. totaled $328 million, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Consumer fireworks revenue totaled $662 million.

As for the drought itself, the United States Drought Monitor said that conditions continue to be harsh in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Texas and Oklahoma had some heavier than usual rainfall in areas, but Oklahoma saw flash floods while the state's panhandle had dust storms.

There's been little if any rainfall in the past week in Southwestern states. Extreme and exceptional drought conditions, the two most severe classifications, have expanded in parts of Nevada and Southern California.

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