With the extreme drought conditions still gripping the Oklahoma Panhandle, county and city officials have taken drastic steps to make sure life and property are kept safe. And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, the danger is made even worse by the use of fireworks.
Texas County has made discharging fireworks illegal. The City of Guymon has done the same, but added a twist. A resolution in early June made the sale of fireworks illegal in the Guymon city limits.
That fact has many wondering about a fireworks stand that was opened on Highway 3 near Country View Estates this week.
The stand is on a strip of land not in the city limits of Guymon, thus it can legally sell fireworks. Itâs the only fireworks stand in operation in Texas County.
âWeâre doing everything we can to address this problem,â said Guymon Police Chief Eddie Adamson. âThe fire chief and I went to that fireworks stand (Tuesday). The stand itself, the location itself is a legal location for fireworks.â
The chiefs asked the operators not to sell because of the extreme fire danger. They reminded the operators of a major grass fire that threatened the Elks Addition in April and a major grass fire north of the city in March.
âI pointed out to them that the fire came up right next to houses in the Elks Addition, and we lost some houses,â Adamson said.
The vendor said they understood, and would contact the owners of the company, TNT.
A permit on the property listed the Victory Center Church in Guymon as being involved with the stand, so Adamson contacted Victory Center.
âThey told us that they were not involved with selling the fireworks this year and they had notified (TNT) that they would not be selling fireworks this year because of the danger to the public from fireworks,â Adamson said.
Police went back to the stand and informed them that the church was no longer involved in selling fireworks. The vendor for TNT closed the stand down.
For a little while, at least.
âWe considered the issue done,â Adamson said. âWe told everyone (sheriff, county commissioners) that it was the only stand operating but they had decided to close up shop, and we left it at that.â
Adamson received a call Tuesday night from the vendor operating the stand, who said she was in possession of a permit in her name. Adamson explained about the dangers of fireworks this year. She said she understood, but indicated they would still open the stand.
âIt truly is a matter of life and death,â Adamson said. âWeâre not out there trying to be bad guys, weâre out trying to save lives and property.â
As of Wednesday afternoon, the stand was still in operation.
The stand has garnered a lot of attention from a community that has experienced fires firsthand this year. Several homes and businesses have been lost. Kenneth Coulson contacted the Guymon Daily Herald about the stand, saying he had a conversation with the vendor on Wednesday afternoon.
âShe told me, âAs long as I make money, Iâm not concerned,ââ said Coulson, who was a firefighter in Guymon for 25 years and a police officer for seven. âShe said, âIâm not concerned, weâre here to sell fireworks. We sell them, we make our money, and thatâs where our responsibility ends.ââ
The fireworks vendor, Rodney Thompson, of Happy, Texas, immediately pointed the GDH to the posted permit saying, "We got our permit, signed by the commissioners and your Chief is supposed to be bringing signs to post about the burn ban."
Guymon Fire Chief Clark Purdy said he planned to do that on Wednesday afternoon.
Thompson said he was contacted by TNT to come to the Guymon location, as the previously scheduled vendor, a church group, backed out.
"We're just honest people, trying to make an honest living," said Thompson, who has been selling fireworks here since Tuesday and says in the beginning, he was unaware the county is under a burn ban.
"We have a lot of money, time and effort invested into this," said Thompson, "If we had known before, we may not have come."
Thompson also added, he does remind every customer about the burn ban, however does not feel responsible for the customer's actions with the fireworks.
"I can't prevent them from shooting them (the fireworks) off," said Thompson.
The Guymon Police Chief took it a step further.
âWeâre asking the public not to go down there, not to buy fireworks if they have any intentions of setting them off,â Adamson said. âIt is legal (to buy fireworks in the county) but irresponsible in my opinion. Itâs paramount to pure negligence. If someone were to die, or a home were to be lost because of that negligence, I would certainly consider that to be a contributing factor.â
When officials asked the landowner, who will not be named, he said that he understood the burn ban and fireworks ban, but had a 10-year lease with TNT and said he was a man of his word and would not ask the vendor to leave.
The GDH asked Thompson how many customers he has sold fireworks too and if his sales were lower than usual. Thompson admitted his sales were definitely lower, with a hand-full of customers.
When Thompson was asked how he would feel if a fire started because of fireworks sold from his location, he said, âYes I'd be concerned, but It's not my fault. Once they walk away its their problem," said Thompson, "I didn't light it."