Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2002

City promoting fireworks safety

June 6, 2002

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If Lawrence residents can't use fireworks responsibly this year, the privilege might be taken away.

Before that happens, though, the city is planning a barrage of fliers, newspaper advertisements and radio spots promoting fireworks safety in the weeks leading to the July 4 holiday.

"Our hope is people can be good citizens and use fireworks safely," Mayor Sue Hack said Wednesday. "We will review whatever the situation is after the Fourth."

The city allows fireworks' use only three days a year, July 2-4. Sales inside city limits are prohibited, but fireworks can be stored if done in accordance with fire safety codes.

Fireworks were blamed last July 4 for an apartment fire at 501 Colo. that destroyed four units and displaced 17 tenants, causing nearly $500,000 in damage.

Fireworks were also believed to have caused a fire that destroyed a vacant house on July 2 in the 1300 block of Haskell Avenue.

Those fires, along with other complaints about illegal use of fireworks, prompted talk of a possible outright ban on private fireworks use, but city commissioners decided in April to conduct a public safety campaign, and to wait until after this year's holiday to review the rules.

Maj. Rich Barr, the city's fire marshal, said the Colorado Street fire was unusual only for its size. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical firefighters stay pretty busy during the holiday, he said.

"Generally, we respond to a number of fires  outside structure fires, grass fires," Barr said. "We've got all those ignition sources out there.

"Certainly, it's not routine that we have large fires like last year, but that possibility exists."

If firefighters had their druthers, Barr said, they'd prefer fireworks' use be limited to licensed pyrotechnicians  like those provided by the Lawrence Jaycees, who put on a fireworks display every year.

As long as most residents can use fireworks, however, "our hope is they'll follow those rules and be safe," Barr said.

One flier prepared by the city urges fireworks safety and encourages users to be respectful of their neighbors and to pick up leftover debris.

"Obviously, anything we can do to promote neighborliness is good," said Lisa Patterson, the city's communications coordinator. "We're just reminding people."

Marvin Pine's family has sold fireworks in Douglas County since 1947. The family will be placing its own ads and offering additional safety tips this year, hoping good behavior can stave off city regulators.

"We'd hate to see our personal tradition end, as well as families who enjoy this as part of their own tradition," Pine said. "Yeah, we're concerned."

Hack said she hopes a safe fireworks year will let the city continue allowing fireworks.

"I don't want it to be, 'Do it right or else,' but it is a valid concern," she said. "We're talking about people's property, and more importantly, their lives."

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