Whitney Long spoke on her phone, working her regular job while volunteering for her church. She had plenty of time for phone chat since her volunteering consisted of manning a customer-less fireworks tent. One potential buyer sauntered in 10 minutes later, but it didn’t require her full attention.
That is the way it has been the entire summer.
“I don’t know why we can’t just shut it down,” a frustrated Long said. “All we are doing right now is sitting out here in the heat and getting nothing out of it.”
With the weather reaching triple digits and with no rain in sight, area officials are becoming very concerned with the possibility of fireworks during the July 4 holiday causing wildfires. Burn bans have been implemented for weeks, and bans on the use and discharging of fireworks are in place throughout Faulkner County. But the sale of the fireworks is not banned in the county, so tents remain up, even if the sales are not coming.
Down the road on Arkansas 64 from Long sat Shelby McCall of Mayflower. Like Long, McCall is working for her youth group from Lakeside Assembly of God. This is the first time they have participated selling fireworks as a fund raiser, and although the teenager did not know how much total money had been brought in, she realized that the business was slower than slow.
“No one has been in today,” she said, sitting at the check out table, spending her time with a coloring book. “I have been here since eight. We have been open for about two weeks, and there have been customers coming in every now and then, but it hasn’t been very busy at all.”
McCall said the group will continue to man the tent for the owner until July 5. A percentage of sales will go to the group. The same goes for Long and The Church Alive, which she is volunteering for. The fireworks sale has been the major fund raiser for the group for the past five years, but Long said this will be the last time for them.
“We usually bring in about $6,000 through this particular fund raiser, and that’s just part of what the entire place brings in,” she said. “But I think we have only gotten about $150 so far.”
The areas where people are able to use fireworks has been shrinking. County judge Preston Scroggin issued a ban on the use of fireworks in the county, and area cities have bans along the same lines. Conway already denies the use of fireworks, and Vilonia and Wooster have issued their own bans. As of Friday, Greenbrier is still allowing fireworks use, but it has canceled its formal fireworks celebration for the holiday. Greenbrier Police Chief Gene Earnhart said that if anyone used fireworks and caused a fire, they would be liable for any damages.
Although the use of fireworks is banned, Scroggin cannot ban the selling of fireworks in the county, although he said it could be worked into legislation to coincide with any future burn bans.
“It is something that we would need to address during the next session,” Scroggin said.
Meanwhile, those selling the fireworks are having to chalk up 2012 to a lost year.
“Personally, I wouldn’t want anyone to buy fireworks this year,” Long said. “It’s so scary to see what has already happened with fires in Colorado and here in Arkansas. I don’t want to see anything like that happen here, especially from fireworks.”
Long said the tent will stay up as long as the owner wants it up.
“He said until they ban him from selling, it will stay open,” she said. “But it’s just not profitable for us. It is just a waste of time.”