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Archive for Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Fireworks warning

July 3, 2002

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Will this be the last year for fireworks in Lawrence?

Lawrence city commissioners are making a valiant effort to get residents to justify a decision to continue legalized fireworks in the city. They put off any discussion of fireworks restrictions until after the Fourth of July and created public service announcements to appeal to people's sense of decorum and safety in shooting fireworks.

But they also have been candid in saying this may be the last chance for residents to shape up and show they can use fireworks responsibly.

Outlawing fireworks in the city limits would not be a popular decision with the many local residents who see the displays as an integral part of their Fourth of July celebrations. But fireworks opponents are stepping up in increasing numbers and making a strong case.

Fireworks cause significant property damage in the city. Last year was particularly bad, with an apartment house fire and a total fire loss of $260,000 caused by fireworks. And that doesn't include the city's cost for emergency personnel to respond to the fires.

City ordinances allow fireworks to be discharged between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on July 2 and 3 and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4. Last year, local police received 260 fireworks-related calls between July 1 and July 8. Most of those complaints were about people using fireworks at illegal places or times.

The ordinance is difficult to enforce because by the time officers arrive at the scene, the evidence and perhaps the perpetrators are gone. But the violations are, nonetheless, troublesome to many residents.

Many people find fireworks annoying because they disrupt their peace and quiet and frighten their pets. Too often people thoughtlessly discharge fireworks late into the night or early in the morning. Fireworks debris is left in the streets or flies into neighboring yards.

Then there are safety concerns. Fireworks cause many injuries every year. Most are minor, but the potential for more serious injuries certainly is present. People who own houses with shake-shingled roofs may be afraid to leave their homes unattended during peak fireworks nights. Some individuals spend hundreds of dollars to stage massive private fireworks displays. Some take proper safety precautions; others do not. A single misfire can cause significant property damage.

Used safely, fireworks can be a festive and enjoyable part of the Fourth of July holiday. Lawrence has allowed fireworks to be discharged inside city limits long after many other cities, larger and smaller, have banned fireworks.

Lawrence residents have been given fair warning. A relatively safe and complaint-free holiday probably will preserve fireworks for at least another year, but a repeat of 2001 may make 2002 the last year to legally shoot fireworks in Lawrence.

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