Home fireworks still illegal 81 years later
Personal fireworks have been illegal in Douglas County since 1938, when officials decided they’d rather celebrate the Fourth of July without the help of a massive wildfire.
The original fireworks ordinance took effect March 25, 1938, and made it illegal for anyone “to sell, discharge or set off any rockets, squibs, firecrackers, or other fireworks.”
The penalty for violating the ordinance at the time was a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail or a $200 fine.
Inflation has affected both the fine and the jail term, with simple possession of fireworks a misdemeanor with penalties of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
That doesn’t include the potential liability someone might have should the fireworks do any damage.
Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said there have been few changes in the rules banning fireworks since those days.
“We get a few people, who come up here and go ‘Oh, man, I didn’t know and I’ve got a box of them,’” he said. “For the most part the locals are pretty well behaved.”
That’s not to say there aren’t occasional violations of the rules.
Eisele said someone in his Ruhenstroth neighborhood set off a barrage of fireworks recently.
“We had someone shoot off four to six big ones that projects up and over the neighborhood,” he said. “I heard something just before I was going to bed. I was looking around and caught a glimpse. I thought I would drive over and then it stopped.”
He said people have an urge to set off fireworks every Fourth of July.
“We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had too many fires started by fireworks,” he said. “But it’s going to be any given day when one starts a fire.”
Anyone who has fireworks can call the fire district at 782-9040 and firefighters will take charge of them and dispose of them safely.
It has been five years since illegal fireworks set a 250-acre wildfire above Topaz Ranch Estates. A half-dozen firefighters were injured in the rough terrain near the top of Minnehaha Canyon.
Eisele said windy, dry conditions are curing grasses across the region, making any spark a possible ignition source.
He pointed out that even sparklers burn at 1,000 degrees or hotter and can cause a fire.
New arrivals and visitors are typically the source for fireworks that end up in Douglas households.
He said while firework sales are banned along the Sierra Front, there are places in California and Nevada where they are available.
There are several public fireworks displays celebrating July 4 across Western Nevada, including Lights on the Lake at Stateline, considered one of the best shows west of the Mississippi.
Licensed fireworks operators may obtain a permit to do private shows from either East Fork or the Tahoe Township fire districts.