Complaints about fireworks prompt regulation change

The city plans to restrict the discharging of consumer fireworks on private property to Victoria Day and Canada Day and three calendar days immediately preceding those holidays, and any other date with authorization of the Brantford fire department. (Jack Boland / Toronto Sun / QMI / (Jack Boland / Toronto Sun / QMI

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An explosion in the number of fireworks displays in the city has prompted new rules for when they can be set off.

In January, council asked staff to report on current legislation and make recommendations regarding the use of fireworks in Brantford.

“Fireworks seem to be going off continuously all through spring,” said Mayor Kevin Davis at an operations and administration committee meeting this week. “We need clear rules and a clear bylaw.”

A report prepared by deputy fire chief Anna Everett said the city’s current bylaw restricts the sale of consumer fireworks to Victoria Day, Canada Day and five calendar days preceding those holidays.

The bylaw also prohibits the discharge of fireworks on any land, including city and school board property, unless there is written permission from the owner.

But, said Everett, the bylaw doesn’t currently regulate when consumer fireworks can be discharged. In Canada, fireworks are separated into three classes: consumer fireworks, which are low-hazard and designed for recreational use; display fireworks, which are high-hazard and designed for professional use, such as the city’s Canada Day show; and special effect pyrotechnics, also high-hazard and designed for professional use, such as the New Year’s Eve display in Harmony Square.

Councillors backed Everett’s recommendation that consumer fireworks on private property can be legally discharged on Victoria Day and Canada Day and three calendar days immediately preceding those holidays, and any other date with authorization of the Brantford fire department.

When asked for feedback from the public on fireworks, the city heard that many enjoy the vibrant colours and loud explosions but the bangs and fizzes can stress animals and spark fires.

Some people, said Everett, wanted less regulation, while others said they “enjoy fireworks displays but dislike the byproducts and favour more regulations.”

“Concerns were voiced around the negative impact they have on pets, people working shift work, wildlife, environment and fear that fireworks may cause fires resulting in property damage or injury,” she said.

“There is confusion and lack of public knowledge regarding current firework regulations in the community.  These opposing views on fireworks and lack of public knowledge of regulations can cause or aggravate neighbourhood conflicts in the community.”

While the fire department doesn’t currently collect data regarding fireworks complaints, there have been 11 fires caused by fireworks since the beginning of 2009. Six, said Everett, were deliberate acts of vandalism, such as discharging them in a portable toilet.

Fireworks displays are limited to specific city parks and not currently permitted in smaller neighbourhood parks due to the potential risk.

“Staff does not recommend display fireworks being permitted in neighbourhood parks and suggest that they be restricted to larger venues, such as the Steve Brown Sports Complex,” said Everett. “In addition, park staff does not have the staff resources to enforce and monitor new bylaws that will permit the discharge of fireworks in parks.”

Everett said enforcement of fireworks regulations is challenging but necessary for compliance.

Councillors have directed the fire chief to implement a fee for responses to fireworks violations. The chief will also monitor the sale and discharge of fireworks over the next year and report back if required.

“Hopefully this will satisfy the needs of the community,” said Coun. Dan McCreary. “There are always two sides to each issue. People enjoy fireworks but little dogs don’t and those who live next door to those who enjoy them often don’t.”

 

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