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Cache Man Wants Fireworks Banned After Fire

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CACHE, Okla_ A Comanche County man wants a county-wide ban on fireworks, after they ignited a fire that almost destroyed his pasture July 4th.

Ray Bailey's land, which is located southwest of Cache on Paint Road, is near several homes, as well as a field of highly-flammable mesquite trees. He said the situation could have been a lot worse.

Fortunately, fire crews extinguished the blaze before it spread. He said his fire, combined with dozens of other fireworks-related blazes last weekend, should warrant a change in policy.

7News took a closer look at that request, and what the county's options are. Bailey is calling on the Comanche County Commissioners to implement the ban. At Monday's meeting, he even used the City of Lawton's "No fireworks in the city limits" policy as an example. When it comes to the county and the issue of an outright fireworks ban, their hands are tied.

Roy Bailey said he shudders to look at the images of his pasture burning as a result of fireworks over the weekend. The Cache Volunteer Fire Department captured dashcam footage of the blaze. Bailey said he's lucky, because the thick field of mesquite trees near his pasture could have made the situation a lot worse.

"The other side hasn't been pastured in five years," Bailey said. "It's Promita Grass, and it is 18 inches to a foot tall. It hasn't been pastured, and it's brown. If it would have been in any one of those fields, they could have never put it out. They would have lost some structures on that."

He said firefighters confirmed that fireworks were to blame, but that's not the worst part.

"While they were still fighting the fire, they were still shooting fireworks off," Bailey said.

Bailey said he wants the commissioners to make a bold statement and ban them outright. Western District Commissioner Don Hawthorne said he understands Bailey's plight but it's not that simple.

"The only way we can ban fireworks is if it's tied to a burn ban," Hawthorne said. "Of course, this year we didn't meet the criteria, so there was no burn ban."

Hawthorne said it will take changes to state legislation before the county can intervene on its own.

"We probably need to have some kind of authority to regulate fireworks that are not associated with a burn ban," Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne said the commissioners have talked about dealing with this issue another way by putting a tax on fireworks sales. He said the money would go toward rural fire departments that spent countless hours and manpower fighting fireworks-related fires over the July 4th weekend.

The Comanche County Commissioners plan on reviewing how much of an impact fireworks have on county emergency responders during the July 4th weekend.

"The commissioners asked me to do a study to see what it cost us just for a short time around July 4th, to look into the cost of running the fires in the county," Comanche County Emergency Management Director Clint Wagstaff said. "We had 160 this year, which was down from last year."

Wagstaff said he said he plans on presenting those figures to the commissioners next week.

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