South Jeffco sparks 70 percent of sheriff’s fireworks calls

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By AJ Vicens

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office responded to 237 calls related to fireworks over the July Fourth weekend, with nearly 70 percent of them in South Jeffco.

“It makes sense,” said Capt. Patricia Woodin, head of the sheriff’s South Jeffco operations. “We do make up 50 percent of the (unincorporated) county’s population.”

The 237 calls marked a distinct drop from previous years’ numbers. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said there were 370 such calls in 2007 and 356 in 2008. She said she had no idea why the numbers dropped more than 30 percent this year.

“Whether it’s because of a responsible community making better choices, whether it’s the economic downturn’s potential effects on the purchase of fireworks, whether it’s a community that’s more tolerant and less likely to report fireworks to us, I’m just not sure,” Kelley said.

The sheriff’s office handed out 26 court summonses from the 237 calls, Kelley added. Nearby counties had varying experiences with fireworks calls. The Denver Police Department issued 46 court summonses, wrote 132 warnings and arrested seven people. Denver also confiscated more than 2,000 pounds of illegal fireworks.

Kelley said that Jeffco seized some illegal fireworks but not nearly as much as Denver. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office didn’t seize any fireworks.

“If we found anyone with them, we educated them and asked them to destroy them,” said Cocha Heyden, the Douglas County sheriff’s spokeswoman. “But it’s amazing how many people played stupid and acted like they had no idea that a lot of fireworks are illegal.”

Heyden said that booking fireworks into evidence is too time consuming.

“Our officers are too busy,” she said. “We’ve been doing this the last few years. It helps us because we have more important things to do than drive to fireworks calls.”

Douglas County deputies went out on 200 fireworks calls but issued fewer than a dozen verbal warnings.

“The problem was that most of our calls were people complaining about seeing illegal fireworks or hearing them,” Heyden said. “They couldn’t necessarily say where they were coming from.”

Kelley said she expects the Jeffco sheriff’s office will continue to get fireworks calls, and although it’s been a wet summer so far, fire danger remains.

“We still need to be cautious about the fire danger,” she said, noting that it would take just a week or so of 90-degree weather to dry out all the vegetation that has thrived during the wet spring and early summer.

“In previous years, it was a different situation in Jefferson County. By July of last year and in earlier years, people were seeing reports of fires all the time,” Kelley said. “It was easier to sell in past years, but people have to know the fire danger is still there.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.