Bremen will go ahead with fireworks despite county ban

BREMEN — The town of Bremen is going ahead with a public fireworks display on July 4 as a part of their annual Bremen Firemen’s Festival. Rich Martin, Bremen director of operations, indicated that they have a number of safety measures planned including watering down the field in Sunnyside Park two hours before the 10:30 p.m. fireworks display. Martin said the town has 13 pieces of fire apparatus that will be on hand and they expect most, if not all, of the 28 volunteers and 10 substitute firefighters to be at the event.
He said, “The wooded area nearby is green and cooled.”
He added, “We are using common sense and have defiantly done our homework.”
According to Bremen Police Chief, Matt Hassel, a decision to cancel or proceed could be made up until the last minute. Hassle said if they receive word in advance that the fireworks portion is canceled, he will email local media.
This week, Clyde Avery, Marshall County EMA Director, issued a Disaster Declaration regarding the burn ban that now includes prohibiting the use of fireworks. The Declaration included the following: "The local area Fire Chiefs were consulted and based on their experience and the current conditions, they believe that in the interest of public safety, the burn ban should remain in place and that public displays and use of the consumer fireworks should be prohibited.”
Martin said they are going by the state statute and town ordinances that allow them to proceed. Fireworks are allowed from June 29-July 9. The time allowed on July 4 is extended to midnight.
Avery said the Marshall County commissioners set the first “ban burn” on June 13 and have re-evaluated each week. The latest directive was set on June 27 and is in place until further notice. According to Avery, his role is to give the commissioners information that he has gathered and the final decisions are made by the commissioners. He said he reported what the had learned from surveying fire chiefs, the National Weather Service, and the USDA. Although there is no county ordinance in place concerning the specifics of the latest Disaster Declaration, the commissioners do have “exceptional powers” to restrict activities.
Martin said they would follow any directives from the state level on the matter.
Avery said Thursday afternoon that he is aware of Bremen's decision to go ahead with their fireworks display, and he will be meeting with Commissioner Kevin Overmyer Friday to discuss the issue. Avery also met with city of Plymouth officials Wednesday about the fireworks ban.
"A lot of people are saying that there is an Indiana statute that the county cannot adopt an ordinance prohibiting fireworks," said Avery. "Well, the county has never adopted an ordinance prohibiting fireworks. What we have done is declare a disaster declaration. A disaster declaration is not an ordinance. We are actually trying to get information from the state right now as to whether a disaster declaration supersedes a state statute."
Avery said that the disaster declaration specifically forbidding any public or private display of fireworks issued Wednesday is still in effect.
Walkerton will also have a fireworks display on the 4th, beginning at approximately 10:30 p.m. Festival committee member Brittnie Whitaker said that she has spoken with the local fire department and police chief and got the go-ahead for fireworks.
"The fire department will be wetting the ground where the fireworks will be lit three to four days before they will be set off," said Whitaker. "I think the fire chief is more concerned with personal home use (of fireworks) than professional displays."

Staff writer Lydia Beers contributed to this article.