Local retailers say fireworks sales are skyrocketing over last year’s, when the sale of sparklers, bottle rockets and Roman candles flopped following weeks of extreme drought conditions and a county-wide burn ban.
Noel Braun, area manager with Jake’s Fireworks on Highway 65, said he is banking an improvement in weather conditions and steady crowds to round out a successful holiday season.
"Sales have been very good so far," Braun said. "Last year, of course, was a disaster due to the burn ban, but this year has been very good. None of us know what the weather is going to do, but I would doubt very much that there would be a burn ban. I think we’re ... safe this year."
Ray Sessions, manager of Fireworks City, said he believes that last year’s conditions are boosting sales in 2013. Last year, customers stuck with smaller fireworks that didn’t explode above the ground, he said.
"So many people missed out on (fireworks) last year and I think some of them are actually spending more than they have in the past," Sessions said.
Kenny Wiedower, division fire chief with the City of Conway, reminded city residents that the discharge of fireworks is banned in city limits. Any person or business planning to shoot fireworks in city limits must obtain a permit, he noted.
Patrol will be out monitoring compliance with the city’s ordinance, according to Conway Police Department Major Larry Hearn, and officers will exercise "zero tolerance" in the issuance of $125 citations for those violating the ordinance.
Hearn also stressed that with heated temperatures over the last week and a dry ground, fireworks are more likely to spark a fire. "People really need to be mindful of that and follow the ordinance," he said.
Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming holiday.
Reflecting on 2012, Dodson recalled that three county-owned water trucks were steadily operating following a large number of grass fires erupting in the county.
Conditions this year are better, Dodson acknowledged, but said he’s communicating with Shelia McGhee, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, to monitor the situation in the coming days.
"I sure was hoping we’d have some rain," Dodson said of Sunday’s scattered showers. "We’re not there yet, but conditions are close enough that it requires continued monitoring.
"Heat increases the rate of evaporation, so what little moisture we do have goes away quicker the hotter it gets," he said. "If temperatures stay cool, that should certainly help things. It’s a delicate balance between our country’s celebration, along with some people’s livelihood, and the risk of fire and damage to life and property."
(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by email at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter @LCDonline, @meganpreynolds.)