Rudy Forrest said firework sales are so low he'd have to look up to see the bottom of a snake's belly.
Forrest, who has been selling fireworks in Oklahoma for 31 years, said dry conditions have dried out his sales too. Forrest has 27 stands statewide, some of them in counties under a burn ban.
“It's bad, bad, bad,” Forrest said. “In some areas people can buy them, but it's against the law to set them off. Now what kind of sense does that make?”
As of Thursday afternoon, 36 counties are under a burn ban, including Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland and Kingfisher counties. Burn bans usually include a prohibition on the personal use of pyrotechnics outside of city limits in areas where it has traditionally been legal to pop fireworks.
Drought conditions across the state have cities tightening the restrictions on personal firework use too, and some have even canceled their public fireworks displays for fear of starting fires.
There will be no fireworks this year exploding over Fort Sill in Lawton. The U.S. Army base's Independence Day celebration and concert will go on as planned Saturday, but its fireworks have been canceled. A fire that started on a base firing range last week burned across 5,500 acres before it was contained. Thirteen homes were destroyed and 1,500 people had to be evacuated.
The city of Mustang traditionally allows fireworks on private property or in the city parks. As of Thursday, setting them off was banned, but city officials Friday were expected to re-evaluate the situation and could possibly change their minds.
Harrah is allowing fireworks July 3-4, but that could change. The city council Wednesday gave Fire Chief Murrel Coleman authority to call off the discharge of fireworks, depending on the heat, wind and drought conditions.
Harrah in March lost several homes to wildfires.
Choctaw city council members have limited the days fireworks can be popped in the city limits. In the past, fireworks could be set off from July 1-5. This year, because of drought conditions, fireworks may only be used on July 4 until 11:30 p.m.
“It was a compromise,” City Manager Robert Floyd said. “A lot of clubs depend on the sales to help their organizations and we're not out to ruin anyone's holiday.”
Forest said most of his stands are run by school groups, churches and even a volunteer fire department as fundraisers.
Oklahoma City Family Church uses the profits from its stand near Nicoma Park to help churches in Third World countries, and those in the United States recently struck by natural disasters.
Assistant Pastor Josh Chavez, 36, of Moore said they're telling people about burn ban restrictions and cautioning them to be careful in dry areas.
Valley Brook will allow fireworks to be lit at designated areas on Jody Street.
Valley Brook Town Clerk Christian Collins said a city lot and a schoolyard are barricaded off for firework use. The area is policed, and firefighters are stationed there to handle potential fires.
Fireworks continue to be prohibited in most cities, including Oklahoma City, Moore, Shawnee, Yukon, Norman, Edmond, Midwest City, Kingfisher and Del City.
Oklahoma City Assistant Fire Marshal Harold Thompson said the fine for setting off fireworks in the city limits is $177 to $1,200, depending on the severity of the offense.
Thompson said the state also may impose fines up to $500, and fire starters are held financially responsible for any property damage they cause.
“The best bet is still to go to public displays,” Thompson said. “It's safe, controlled and doesn't cost people a penny.”