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Allen County burn ban expected to be extended as state faces drought

Fort Wayne July Fourth show expected to go on as Albion postpones its show.

Friday, June 22, 2012 - 9:38 am

Despite Thursday’s scattered showers, the Allen County Commissioners today were expected to extend their week-old ban on open burning another seven days.

As July Fourth approaches, however, this or future bans are not expected to affect “official” fireworks displays, although fireworks sold to private individuals may be another matter.

Fort Wayne Fire Department officials said this year’s major fireworks displays will likely go on as planned with some added safety measures. A show was planned for Saturday night as part of IPFW RiverFest, and other big displays would include July Fourth fireworks at IPFW, the Three Rivers Festival later in July and occasional Fort Wayne TinCaps games throughout the summer.

Commissioners spokesman Mike Green said fireworks used with a proper permit are not covered by the ban. As a result, “Professional fireworks are a go, as far as we know,” said Stacey Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne Fire Department. “There have been some adjustments in the fireworks that will be let off.”

Fleming said the fire department was working on extra safety precautions with the pyrotechnic companies in charge of setting off the big shows. For example, the department would not allow fireworks that shoot at an angle, she said. Firefighters also would be on hand for displays, patrolling the area for hazards.

If the ban is extended again, it could affect the period in which residents are normally allowed to use fireworks. Even then, Green said, sales would not be prohibited.

More than half of Indiana’s 92 counties have open burning bans because of dry grass and vegetation and many local officials are considering whether to go ahead with Independence Day fireworks displays. The only rain for some time was the 0.18 inch Fort Wayne got Thursday evening as recorded at Fort Wayne International Airport. Lighting in Harlan reportedly knocked down a tree during the 5:30 p.m. storm, landing on a home in the Black Creek Mobile Home Park. No injuries were reported, according to the weather service.

Albion, meanwhile, has postponed its Fourth of July fireworks show until Labor Day weekend because of the area’s drought conditions as officials statewide discuss whether to do the same.

At least 80 percent of Indiana is suffering at least a moderate drought and the state’s southwestern corner has extreme drought conditions, according to a national watchdog’s report released Thursday.