Should Huntsville ban residential fireworks?

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A report regarding the Town’s Outdoor Burning Bylaw quickly ignited a discussion about banning fireworks in the Huntsville area at today’s Operations and Protective Services Committee meeting.

Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Andrew Stillar presented a draft Outdoor Burning Bylaw which contained updates to clarify what constitutes an offence during a fire ban. If a fire ban is called, it prohibits all open air burning, fireworks, flying lanterns, and barbecues (except those with a liquid or gas fuel source that can be extinguished with a valve or by closing the lid). The draft bylaw also included a new fine: anyone found in contravention of the bylaw during a fire ban would receive a $500 fine.

Committee passed the recommendation and the draft bylaw will be forwarded to council for ratification. If approved, the bylaw department plans to do a public awareness campaign about what’s prohibited and the fines for ignoring the bylaw.

During discussion, a comment by Councillor Tim Withey sparked a larger conversation about whether or not fireworks should be allowed at all within Huntsville’s boundaries.

“If I had my way, I’d ban fireworks altogether because I think they are detrimental to the environment and wildlife and to our dogs,” said Withey.

Councillor Dan Armour said he’s heard from people about large fireworks being set off in residential areas and asked, “Should we be eliminating residential fireworks in the Town of Huntsville?”

It’s been done in other municipalities, noted Councillor Nancy Alcock. “It is horrible for wildlife, there are a lot of studies that talk about that,” she said. “I grew up with fireworks when I was a kid…but I think it’s a new reality, especially with awareness around fires and from a planning aspect we look at the preparation for uncontrolled fires. It seems to me it’s the right thing to do and if people want to attend fireworks, they can go to [events with fireworks].”

Director of Operations and Protective Services, Steve Hernen, drew a distinction between residential or consumer fireworks and commercial fireworks for displays. “The [commercial]ones go through a whole licensing process and the fire department looks after that. They’ve got to produce the insurance, they’ve got to produce a list of what they are shooting in the air to make sure it meets the regulations.”

Hernen added that he personally supports the Town’s Canada Day fireworks display because it “limits all the little ones. If you didn’t do it on July 1 and give the public a chance to go somewhere, you’d have them throughout the community.”

Councillor Withey noted that “enforcement is the key” if the Town does decide to ban fireworks, “but when they are on the books somebody will think twice.”

Committee discussed various options, from a residential area-only ban within urban areas to a total ban across the entire municipality that would include exceptions for large displays at events or on commercial properties like resorts and that would require an application.

Staff were directed to investigate how other municipalities have implemented fireworks bans and report back to committee with their findings and possible options for Huntsville at a future meeting.

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14 Comments

    • The problem is that people are goofy today and often disregard safety (especially after a few beers). A few years ago, we had a burning ban on and our neighbor thought he had to set off fireworks in the bush, between our house and his. Fortunately, nothing caught fire but I was scared the whole time that it would. Fireworks should be done by professionals.

      In addition, I would love to see a total open burning ban within 500 feet from any structure or bush. Many people have respiratory problems and the smoke that comes from people burning green wood or trash fires really aggravates those conditions. People often decide to live up here because they NEED clean air to breathe.

  1. wendy j brown on

    I believe residential fireworks should be banned. I know I’m going to get a lot of bad comments . Also I believe that people should be told to not take there dogs to fireworks displays. I know it causes my pets a lot of stress for no good reason. Also with the changing weather conditions fire bans are becoming more and more common, and there are a lot of people who don’t know how to set them off safely.

  2. A proper regulatory framework is called for; not a full or partial ban. Historically, we ignited fireworks at the end of a long dock. A middle-aged uncle was the only individual allowed on the dock; with children held even further back. If one is careful, the risk of fire (or injury) is very low.

    • Isobel Potts on

      I, too, have happy memories of fireworks in our neighbourhood many years ago, but would not look forward to it now.
      My grandchildren do not respect rules – their activities, education (home schooling), and diet are all ‘child-directed’.
      Some activities need adult supervision…

  3. Of course residential fireworks should be banned. It is ridiculous to be selling what are basically explosives to unlicensed retail customers, with no oversight as to how, where and when these products will be used. The risk for personal injury, property damage and, worst of all, a devastating forest fire are far too high. Want to see fireworks? Go to a proper, safely-conducted, licensed pyrotechnics display.

  4. Brian Tapley on

    Every situation is different. Fireworks on the lake shore in the early evening are a tradition here and we have never had any issues except once when a group of tourists chose to launch those flying lanterns without permission. We don’t allow these things at all as they are virtually uncontrollable once launched.
    Fireworks on a small in town lot would be a totally different issue.

    Society has done the usual thing of expanding fireworks sales over the years and now they sell everything to everyone it seems. Maybe a simple hand out with the sale, something with some safety suggestions would help as a lot of people don’t seem to have a clue.

    Before we get too carried away with Dogs feelings for fireworks, how about worrying about the dogs barking at all hours. They drown out the loons and disturb the silence of the night but dog owners don’t seem to hear them. Maybe we should ban dogs along with fireworks? Now this by-law would get a reaction I’m sure!!

  5. Yes they should be limited to May 24, July 1st as they used to be. People set them off any day of the week all summer long late at night. You can’t monitor your dog or pets because you aren’t expecting them. It has become ridiculous here in Huntsville and people were setting them off during the fire ban last year. So yes time to end the nonsense and go to public safe timed displays. Get with the times.

  6. Steve Rogers on

    Canada Day can be celebrated (as well as other holidays) without fireworks. As with all concerns, weigh the pros vs the cons and fireworks are not good for the environment, wildlife (including fish), noise, etc. And for what ? All so us humans can be pleased and to boost business – seems a bit selfish ! Just because there is tradition/memories/etc attached to an event, doesn’t mean we should continue it. This applies to both residential and ‘so-called professional pyrotechnics’. Let’s have town vote so we can have a say where some of the taxpayer monies are directed.

    • Craig Meredith on

      They should be banned. I am surprised they aren’t already banned in Huntsville. It seems like every airbnber thinks that they need to bring up a pack of fireworks and light them off to celebrate a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Sunday. And for what? Basic starter packs are not pretty, nor are they welcome to see by the neighbours and everyone else on the lake. The random noise is completely unwelcome to many people, and all pets and wild animals. Also, I am pretty sure we can all agree that seeing basic fireworks is not the highlight of any day.

      It all boils down to respect, something that seems to be dwindling as time goes on. The way people conduct themselves on a lake nowadays seems so beyond how people behaved years ago. I am sure that all the pro-fireworks people could not honestly say they support fireworks if they knew one of their family members suffered from PTSD and were traumatized by them.

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