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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