Archive for Friday, July 5, 2013

More than a decade after a citywide ban, fireworks still making noise in Lawrence

July 5, 2013


The Fourth of July in Lawrence: As they have for decades, city residents celebrated the holiday by shooting off all manner of Roman candles, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and fiery fountains.

Most of those fireworks are illegal in Lawrence.

Police responded to more than 100 calls Thursday night about the booms, whistles and bright lights that rattled and illuminated the city’s neighborhoods.

They wrote one ticket.

More than 10 years after city commissioners enacted a sweeping ban on most forms of fireworks within city limits, Lawrence residents continue to put flame to fuse in celebration U.S. independence, with some seeming to believe that fireworks are legal, or at least tolerated, in certain areas of the city.

For some residents, it’s fun. For others, it’s noisy and dangerous.

But police and city officials say that with fireworks so closely linked with the Fourth of July, it’s all but impossible to enforce the city’s pyrotechnic prohibition.

'We always follow the rules'

Roman Hernandez, of Lawrence, was with about eight family members shooting off small fireworks on the levee just across the Kansas River from downtown Lawrence. The family has been doing the same each Independence Day for about five years, and Hernandez said police had not come to talk to him about it. He said he thought that was because fireworks were tolerated on the levee.

“We know in this space we can do it,” Hernandez said. “We always follow the rules for the places we can do it.”

In fact, fireworks are prohibited throughout the city limits of Lawrence, with the exceptions of supervised public displays and novelty items such as sparklers and party poppers. The 2002 city ordinance also allow use of fireworks by military and railroad officials in the performance of their duties.

Violating the fireworks ordinance is punishable by a fine of up to $200 on the first offense, while each subsequent violation could trigger a similar fine plus up to six months in jail.

The ban was imposed following the lead of other urban communities and neighbors in Johnson County, said City Manager David Corliss. The city had a real concern about fire safety, the security of homeowners, and fireworks-related injuries.

For years, fireworks had been permitted during selected hours, July 2-4, until city officials took up the issue of a complete ban in 2002. The year before, fireworks had been blamed for an apartment fire at 501 Colorado St. that displaced 17 residents and caused about $400,000 in damage.

City officials realized from the beginning that enforcement of the ordinance would very difficult. But many, such as then-city commissioner David Dunfield, also thought the ban was inevitable.

“As the city continues to grow, the problems are going to escalate,” he said then. “We’re going to hear about this year after year until something dramatic changes.”

Fireworks on the Fourth

More than a decade later, little seems to have changed.

Last Fourth of July, police responded to 70 calls about fireworks. This year, they there were 102 calls between the evening and midnight patrol shifts, after officers had taken many more during the day. About a dozen officers were on duty Thursday night, said Kim Murphree, a Lawrence Police Department spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, the bottle rockets kept rocketing and the mortar shells kept bursting, from Eighth and New York streets to Clinton Parkway and Kasold and all points between. Fortunately, no fires or serious injuries related to fireworks were reported, according to officials at Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office took no reports of serious incidents in the county, either.

City officials today say they have to strike a balance between public safety and the cost of enforcement in a community where it’s clear that many residents disagree with the fireworks ban and aren’t honoring it.

“It is a challenge, especially from the law enforcement side,” Corliss said. “We do issue citations. But we also know that when we get a call of an accident and a call of a fireworks violation, we’re going to respond first to the accident call.” Apart from the many, many calls about fireworks, Corliss said, some officers were stationed downtown for the Independence Day festivities there.

Other officers were doing what they do every night: responding to burglaries, drug offenses, and domestic disputes.

On Delaware Street Thursday night, residents said several police had driven by, without stopping, a home where a group of people were setting off very large fireworks.

'I don't think there should be a ban.'

Some of the neighbors were fine with that. One man, who asked that his name not be used, brought his wife and two children, ages seven and eight, to a home near Delaware Street and Forrest Avenue to avoid the attention of police. “I don’t think there should be a ban,” he said. “It’s because [of] people who didn’t clean up and it’s certainly put a salty taste in my mouth.”

The family had been warned by police after setting off some small fireworks in their own driveway on a nearby busy street, the man said, but hadn’t been bothered since relocating to Forrest Avenue.

“We did some smoke bombs and fountains; typical things that by all means should be allowed. At most, there was a fountain with an aerial,” he said. “When it comes down to it and they confiscate our fireworks or give us a ticket, so be it. We take care of our property, we clean up after ourselves, we should be able to have a few fireworks in our front yard.”

Details on the single ticket issued Thursday night weren't immediately available from the police department.

Even if reality hasn’t caught up to theory in the city’s total ban of fireworks, Corliss said the policy has done some good. Fully enforcing it, he said, would mean more resources, including more police officers and a discussion with the county government about a stopping the sale of fireworks near the city limits.

For now, Corliss said, it doesn’t seem as if residents want to pay the money to take more of those fireworks out of the sky.

“It is basically the compromise that the community has ended up with that doesn’t make anyone very happy,” Corliss said. “But I don’t know of a better, cheaper solution.”

Meagan Thomas and Chad Lawhorn contributed to this story.


Liberal 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I always enjoy dependence day. I feel so safe and taken care of.


gatekeeper 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I hate to be the nag of the neighborhood, but thanks to all the *sshats shooting off massive amounts of fireworks for days on end, my dog started having seizures that now aren't stopping. He ended up hiding in the bathtub, whining and then the seizures began. He's been to the vet twice now and not much they think they can do for him. Before the 4th, he was fine. High amounts of stress can set off seizures in pets and in people. I would love to go to all the neighbors that gave a big FU to everyone in my neighborhood and turned it into a war zone for days and show them the vet bills and more poor dog flopping on the ground seizing and ask them if the frickin' fireworks were worth it.

Whether you like the law or not, it is the darned law. Don't want to follow the law, you should be ticketed. I'm so pissed at the police in this town for ignoring the law. Should have just sent everyone to the park to shoot them off right in front of the police station since the cops didn't care.

If I have to put my dog down (which unfortunately now be the case), maybe I should take his body around to my neighbors to see so they can get a good look at what their fireworks caused. My dog is my kid and I am so mad and upset that I could ram these fireworks where the sun doesn't shine and light the fuse.

My nephew, who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, would also like everyone to know that if they want to blow crp up, get some blls and join the military. He pretty much hides out this time of year because of PTSD. Those shooting off fireworks have no respect for our veterans.

Those that think it's about freedoms are just fools. You just like to blow cr*p up and waste money, while not caring one little bit about those around you, including those that fought for our nation so you can have these "freedoms".

Thanks Lawrence for harming and maybe killing my dog and causing my veteran nephew to go into hiding for the holiday. Hope it was worth it for the little thrill you got. I'm sure most of you on here will just have something cruel to say and I expect it. Everyone in this backwards town only thinks of themselves and I've had it. Time to get the hell out of Dodge and move to a place where I don't have selfish, disrespectful neighbors.


Norm Jennings 9 months, 2 weeks ago

All that we learn from history, is that we learn nothing from history. A shamelessly stolen quote that is so applicable here.

Fireworks aren't the issue today any more than alcohol was the issue in Prohibition. There is no "try it once, and you're an addict for life" aspect to fireworks.

The issue is that relevant laws, enforcement, and punishment for irresponsible/reckless/negligent/hazardous use of fireworks is apparently a bridge too far for our city and law enforcement leadership. So we pass a meaningless, unenforceable, and generally foolish law that further distracts from more concrete measures to address the critical safety concerns.


JJE007 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The law is probably designed for fireworks suppression, not eradication. It is also there to make suing or punishing your neighbors a bit easier, in case their celebration interrupts your quietude or burns down your house.


George Lippencott 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't want burning rockets (or anything else) on my roof. There would be no need for a law prohibiting fireworks if people respected other people's property.


Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I have to admit that our kids set off a fireworks show way back when. We were nervous wrecks. So, were our neighbors, pets, and outdoor animals. They only did it once. We never allowed it again. In subsequent years, fireworks in general were going off at all hours for many days before and after. The ban on fireworks ordinance has provided a lot of relief.

Being loud and baudacious about the right to set off fireworks is not a good reason to lift the ban. Folks are becoming more and more inconsiderate. We need the ban. Even then, some folks feel justified breaking the law, because it's not being enforced? Irresponsible reasoning, at best.


smileydog 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The firework display needs to be done at the City's high point, not the river bottoms. They even stopped so the trains could go by. Very disappointing.

I recall one of Lawrence's colorful citizens claiming fireworks somehow promoted violence, and they got banned by our local anti-American communists..


Newell_Post 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I miss bottle rockets. That was the most fun a kid could have for a few pennies......


Nikonman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Remember the junked TV sets and the Umbrellas stuck up in the trees at a house in east Lawrence? The owner claimed it was Art and in the end, the city couldn't enforce a trash ordinance or whatever law there was against it. Umbrellas went up into the trees all over town in support of the home owner and city hall backed down. So maybe the setting off fireworks is just an Art Form and we all know Art rules in Lawrence.


Centerville 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The ban came about because one person figuratively chained herself to city hall and threatened a histrionics filibuster unless fireworks were banned. Every year since, there are a lot of fireworks shot off in the neighborhood surrounding her house. Just reporting this so you all can see that there are (although very rarely) good outcomes to stupid regulations.


seebarginn 9 months, 2 weeks ago

An earlier post called the ban a "tyrannical" law. That is so melodramatic, so exaggerated, that I'd expect to hear it from a cartoon character like Yosemite Sam or Daffy Duck.

I have only 2 problems with fireworks: one, they are made in China; two, as some commentators have pointed out, too few of the great patriotic insurgents against tyranny can't be bothered to clean up the public parks, sidewalks, and streets of the spent fireworks trash.

In other words, I think most of the people whining loudest about the fireworks ban, along with those who don't see something a little funny about buying Chinese fireworks and who litter like pigs, are all about their own selfish selves, no matter how much they go out of their way to ennoble themselves with all the high falutin' freedom talk.


Richard Heckler 9 months, 2 weeks ago

4th of July Fireworks a Nightmare for Shell-Shocked War Veterans4th of July Fireworks a Nightmare for Shell-Shocked War Veterans

Drives a lot of canine friends out of their minds as well. Some go looking for a closet to hide.


Richard Heckler 9 months, 2 weeks ago

"For now, Corliss said, it doesn’t seem as if residents want to pay the money to take more of those fireworks out of the sky."

How do we know?

Is it a matter of no teeth in the law?

Fire works are not about celebrating freedom it is about celebrating big profiteering. Let's be honest about it.

Not much freedom with big brother spying on us 24/7........ for the past 70 years or more.


akt2 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I thought the new thing this year was the paper lanterns. There were many of them. I can see where they would be a fire hazard in town though.


verity 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm just really glad this isn't my problem anymore. When I lived in Lawrence, there were fireworks going off at all hours of the day and night starting about ten days before the 4th and extending several days afterward, so there was about two weeks of being kept awake during normal sleep hours. There was also the worry of my house burning down from wind blown sparks if I left town---or over my head if I stayed.

You can try to make this about the courageous standing up to tyranny, but really it's about common respect for other people.


jesse499 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So maybe if they would write more then 1 ticket oops that's a better ratio then the number of tickets for red lights ran in Lawrence or texting tickets. I just would like to know if someone shots a illegal firework and catches my house on fire can I sue the city for not enforcing their own law?


Larry Moss 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, sure. We write laws without any forethought as to how to enforce them or what the long term affects will be because they make us feel good about fixing something we think is broke. It makes no since to the populace which wishes to ignore it. And so it gets thrown on the pile of bad laws that just lie there until we find that one ignorant citizen we want to throw it at.

Of course I'm talking about Obamacare but, it's true of the fireworks law too.


kernal 9 months, 2 weeks ago

LJW, here's an idea for next year. Interview the LPD's public relations officer and the day before fireworks go on sale, run an article on what the public can do to help the LPD get a conviction. Also, include in the article the history of fireworks in Lawrence and Douglas County, such as the house(s) set on fire by neighbors fireworks, the woman who pulled a gun on her neighbors for shooting them off early in the morning, etc. . I seem to recall there was a time when they were also banned in the county and the reason there is no county wide ban now is because an elected official of one of the Douglas County agencies owned a fireworks stand sometime during the last three decades of the 1900's. You also used to run the number of firework injuries at LMH the day after. Don't think we've seen that in a while and I'd be really surprised if there haven't been firework related injuries in the past several years.


Leslie Swearingen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I love the sound and sight of the fireworks. There were a lot around South Park to the west. My cat, Deion, slept though all of it, and if there is a slight growl of thunder he is under the sofa. I am very curious about why one does not bother him and the other does, but he is not talking.

My daughters little dog, Isis, pushed the living room curtains aside to watch the fireworks. She loved them. On their walk Isis was watching them over the trees, and looking up at my daughter as if to say, cool, eh? My daughter agreed.


grammaddy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

One ticket? I'd say the ban has ended. At least where the LPD is concerned.


Patricia Davis 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I think there should be a total ban of fireworks in Lawrence. This is nuts! We are still in a drought—down by at least 5 inches—and we have the patriots out in the streets blowing bottle rockets into dense neighborhoods.

My dad who fought in Patton's army thought fireworks were for sissies. Want to prove your patriotism, join the military he'd say and I believe he was right. With freedom, comes responsibility which is guided by common sense and mutual respect. And, no, I don't mind being the neighborhood grinch. We have a 24/7 noise ban, I say it should be enforced 24/7.


Jason Johnson 9 months, 2 weeks ago

If/when I ever run for City Council, this silly ban will be one of the first I'll try to axe. It's a pointless law, most people hate it, and most people don't follow it.


appleaday 9 months, 2 weeks ago

My neighbors started setting off firecrackers about 5 pm and it was pretty much constant until dark with mostly those strings of black cats. Then they started the bottle rockets and then the other stuff with light displays. I sedated my dog and kept him on a leash when I took him outside. If the neighbors had kept on with the noise after 10:30 when I went to bed, I would have called the cops to enforce the noise ordinance, but they finally ran out of fireworks. I'm not a grinch, just a citizen with rights like everyone else. I don't mind the annoyance on the holiday and up to a certain point and certainly feel that others have the right to celebrate the way they want as long as they're respectful of others. I personally don't see what's so exciting about miniature explosions, but to each his own.


patkindle 9 months, 2 weeks ago

unless you are the neighborhood Grinch, and rat out your neighbors the police wont do much, then they are forced to at least make the call everyone loves the neighborhood Grinch,


hitme 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I walk into a Florida Walmart and they're still selling fireworks inside the store two days after the holiday. Wonder how they manage it an Lawrence can't.


9 months, 2 weeks ago

So I am guessing the city passed an ordinance without even thinking how to enforce the ban. Fireworks go off from the day they can start selling and didn't quit in our neighborhood till after midnight on the 5th. They know to police aren't going to come or do anything so they have no fear of getting caught or in trouble. They need to enforce it completely or get rid of the ban, because what we have now isn't working.


rlsd 9 months, 2 weeks ago

It was as wild and crazy as it ever was when legal. If they are not going to enforce it why have it? I only wish we could not sell/ set them off EXCEPT on the Fourth. Starting it up on the first is too much. But then the profit would not be there and that is the incentive for the vendors.


Matthew Herbert 9 months, 3 weeks ago

100 calls to police, 1 ticket written. Well huh, I wonder why people don't obey the law???? I guess it turns out that you can't ban something simply by legislating it actually have to include an enforcement piece.


kuguardgrl13 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I grew up in Pennsylvania where there is a blanket ban on consumer fireworks. You can have sparklers and little firecrackers on the ground, but that's it. They don't sell any of the stuff you can find at the stands around here. And it's a pretty successful ban. Growing up we'd set off some Chinese firecrackers and maybe have sparklers at the barbecue. And of course the professional Zambelli displays have been amazing for years. After the big night displays all was quiet.

Of course then I moved to Minnesota where they sell everything but bottlerockets around the 4th. Although the sheriffs out in the country usually don't care as long as you shoot them out over the lake. Even then people are respectful and only set things off at decent hours.

So there you go: we either need a state ban or no ban and the use of courtesy and common sense. With Missouri as our neighbor it should probably be the latter.


riverdrifter 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Every year in Baldwin City, the fireworks go off like crazy. It's Dodge City here. However, nothing burns down, no hands blown off that I know of. At midnight, the curtain came down and there was nothing after that, not a single whump that I noted, in town. In fact, there was more stuff going off Wednesday evening than on the 4th. Go figure. The 4th of July is just fine here.


BringBackMark 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Here in the People's Republic of Lawrence even law enforcement doesn't like the ban. It's a complete waste of valuable resources on a night when serious violations should be looked after. As with most, we left town and headed south to Baldwin. What a refreshing environment! Neighborhoods lighting fireworks and enjoying our one true USA holiday. How can we call this Independence Day with the scrutiny and policing that the City has placed on its residents? The economic impact on local businesses is HUGE! Consider all of the people that used to travel to Lawrence to be with friends and family. Now most people leave town. Let's get a petition going and change this.


Gabe Hoffman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It's a silly ban using fear as it's justification. Accidents happen. I believe the original ban was put in place stating the amount of property damage over a 25 year stretch accumulating something near $700k in damages; much of which was that one incident at an apartment complex. I agree with most here, if you aren't going to stop it, and, only give verbal warning, quit wasting our time and those of a public service nature and move on.


Dan Stohs 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I feel sorry for all the young kids growing up through this ban. I remember as a kid having the 4th of July be my favorite holiday. I, as well as all my friends were safe with the fireworks. I would really appreciate it if the ban got lifted.


sjgreen 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Personally, I support the ban, but I've had it with the police not enforcing it. If they are going to actively choose not to fine people even when they're caught red-handed, it should be repealed. As it is, kids with parents who follow the law are punished and those who parents ignore it aren't. I used to live near Forest and Delaware. Every year a group of kids and parents gathers to set off fireworks. Every year the police come by and remind them to be careful -- no ticket, no fine, not even a request to stop. If they had been fined even once, they most likely would have stopped. What kind of example does it set for children when their parents ignore the law and the police encourage them to do so? Either enforce it with tickets and fines, or repeal it.


kernal 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I can't believe no one has the guts to come on here and say they are against fireworks within the city limits. I doubt that more than thirty percent of people celebrating Independence day have even read the Constitution, Bill of Rights or can name the main branches of government. I know some of them don't even know who their representatives are in the state legislature much less Congress or the Senate. They're just a bunch of grown men acting like ten year olds.

It would be fine if people only shot them off only on the Fourth of July, but nooooo. They start June 28th and don't stop until they run out by July 7th, except for those who have the discipline to save some for New Years.


jack22 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I like fireworks and America just as much as the next guy, but I'm all for the ban. I wish the police were more active enforcing it. Just because it's the Fourth of July shouldn't give everyone the right to make loud noise, litter, and potentially do someone harm or cause a house fire.

It's too bad Independence Day has turned into a free for all for people who want to light off high explosives in residential neighborhoods. Independence Day for me is about unfurling of flags, parades, and BBQ's with family and friends to celebrate this great day. Some idiots are still out there blowing stuff up tonight and probably will continue through the weekend. Let's leave the high explosives to the experts, I don't need my neighbor trying to blow my house down or set the block on fire to remind me that I'm free or that I'm an American.


Richard Ballard 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Somebody was still shooting off what sounded like 1/2 sticks of dynamite west of the hospital near Michigan Street at 4:30 AM this morning.

It was shaking the windows in my house from several blocks away. Much louder then the city fireworks aerial shells about the same distance away from my home.

I hope they were the ones that got the lone, single ticket!

BTW: I really don't care what they shoot when it's the night of the 4th.

But this was 4:30 AM of the 5th.



kansas_cynic 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Minor point, the NHRA events aren't running in my neighborhood.


blindrabbit 9 months, 3 weeks ago

liberty275: I've attended the NHRA events at Heartland, agree about the Top Fuelies, shake the ground as well as your brain I live near the junction of US40 and Stull Road, in I can actually hear the Fuelies go from here, at first was not sure what it was (noise and ground vibes) but the 5 second duration gave it away. We are about 18 miles (by the crow from the track). Bring back the Cherry Bombs, M-80's and Torpedos, used to go to Mike's in the KC Stockyards bottoms.


SpeedRacer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It would be cool if the City fireworks display were held in a high point in town instead of the lowest point. I know I would rather see that than the cheap stuff the neighbors were shooting off. Also, my dog could see what she's barking at.


Pheps 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder if fireworks could be developed with dissolving, water soluble paper like packing peanuts are?


dougbe50 9 months, 3 weeks ago

This law is a joke and I am pretty sure there was no vote. If the city commissioners sold fireworks they would still be legal. I am not saying they pass laws that benefit their own businesses , ok yeah that is what I am saying. Topeka can do fireworks but they cant do sparklers and we can do sparklers and not much else. There needs to be a compromise , maybe fountains ,small aerials and little firecrackers.


angelus 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I say kudos to those who defied the law. The 4th is a celebration of the defiance of a tirrany and what better way to celebrate than defying a tiranical law.


sassykansan 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm all for celebrating with fireworks, but would appreciate if those that shoot them clean up their mess. I have trash in both my front and backyard from my neighbors' fireworks. Show a little respect for your neighbors and at least clean up after yourselves.


Liberty275 9 months, 3 weeks ago

This is what I noticed last night. Some people on our block spent a fortune on fireworks and I went outside to watch. Both adults and children were firing stuff off. Of course, the adults shot mortars and the kids mostly had things that whistled and went "pop".

All around you could see large mortars going off.

The kids had no interest in the big noisy mortars, in fact they didn't pay them any mind. But every time they lit off some little whiz-bang the were full of glee. The kids got it.

7/4 isn't about watching the city or anyone else celebrate freedom, it is about celebrating freedom yourself. The law needs to be rescinded.


kusp8 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Agreed. I'm not the best with math but only issuing 1 ticket for all of those calls is a pretty dang low number.


3up3down 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It is time to repeal the fireworks prohibition. Talk about a law that is almost impossible to enforce and a waste of police manpower when there are bigger crimes to be dealt with. I would agree that bottle rockets should be illegal, but all else is fair game. We are celebrating the 4th of July. I am so sick and tire of the tail wagging the dog in this city, county, state and country. It is time to let tradition stand. Happy Birthday America!!


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