Arts & Entertainment and Government

GR amends its fireworks ordinance for the 4th

City pledges to enforce it as much as humanly possible.

June 28, 2013
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GR amends its fireworks ordinance for the 4th
Grand Rapids City Commissioners banned the discharge of fireworks within the city limits during specific hours before, during and after the Fourth of July.

When the Republican-controlled state Legislature made illegal fireworks legal in Michigan last year, it blew open a holiday version of Pandora’s box. 

The number of complaints from residents in densely populated neighborhoods statewide exploded, citing sleep-deprived nights and concerns over potentially life-threatening fire hazards, as legislators made the fireworks legal without regard to time of day or night.

Lansing lawmakers responded this year by turning over the regulation of these loud, airborne consumer missiles to local governments. 

Grand Rapids city commissioners met in a special session last week to unanimously ban the discharge of these fireworks within city limits between midnight and 8 a.m. on the day before, day of and day after a holiday. The new local ordinance applies to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. 

“For most holidays, this would include the hours of midnight to 8 a.m. On New Year’s Day, these hours are 1 a.m. until 8 a.m.,” said city attorney Catherine Mish.

“This is truly going to be, for some residents, Christmas in July. It should be quieter,” said Commissioner Ruth Kelly.

Commissioners were practical about the police department’s ability to enforce the ban. After all, city residents were shooting fireworks off in the middle of the night when the explosives were illegal, and not all are likely to follow the overnight restriction after they’ve invested hundreds of dollars into their arsenal.

In addition, Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said the department receives a lot of calls regarding fireworks each year and doesn’t have the manpower to respond immediately to everyone. 

“I think we just need to be realistic about enforcement,” she said.

“We will dedicate all of our resources to respond as quickly as we can,” said City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

Mish said residents should get good descriptions of individuals who light the fuses so police can track down violators if a patrol car doesn’t arrive when the fireworks are going off.

When lawmakers amended the statute, called the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, earlier this year, they made the violation of a municipal fireworks ordinance a civil infraction. Under the Grand Rapids ordinance, it was a criminal misdemeanor, and commissioners had to amend the city’s law to meet the state’s reduced penalty, which carries a maximum fine of $500.

The city’s ordinance also makes it illegal to ignite consumer fireworks on any day not allowed by state law. 

“I just hope and trust that our citizens will be good neighbors,” said Commissioner James White.

Commissioners Walt Gutowski and Elias Lumpkins joined Bliss, Kelly and White in approving the ban at the special session. Mayor George Heartwell and Commissioner Dave Shaffer were unable to attend the meeting. 

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, revenue from consumer fireworks has skyrocketed nationwide, from $284 million in 1998 to $645 million last year. It also reported fireworks were responsible for 17,800 fires in the U.S. in 2011, the most recent reporting year. In 2000, there were 38,700 reported fires — the most since 1988 when 52,100 were reported.

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