By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

City could pop fines on fireworks

 


The City of Seward isn’t against fireworks—as long as they don’t endanger lives or property. But keep in mind that if you don’t have a city permit or a license? to set off fireworks, you could be looking at a fine, or even a stay in jail.

Members of the Seward City Council voted unanimously on Monday to authorize the city to draft a preliminary proposal to create a citation program for the illegal use and possession of fireworks. The new program would enable police officers or members of the fire department who have been authorized to serve as law enforcement officers to issue municipal citations for fireworks infractions.

“I’d like to tighten up the fireworks ordinance by having some teeth put into it by having a citation program,” said councilman David Squires, who retired as fire chief. “I really don’t want to see us go through what we did in 1986 again. I don’t think anyone wants that.”

In the summer of 1985, a traumatic fireworks accident involving local children that resulted in one death and permanent injuries for two others. The incident helped form the backdrop for the final passage of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s ban of fireworks.

In his request to have city officials begin preliminary work on drafting a plan for the program, Squires said the city’s current ordinance didn’t go far enough in protecting residents.

“In the adoption of the 2012 International Fire Code, the city required persons wishing to use fireworks to obtain a permit,” he said. “Also in that adoption, the manufacture, storage, sale, handling and use of fireworks is prohibited except as allowed by this section, which is where we say you have to get a permit and also you have to have a license to shoot off fireworks.”

Under current city rules, individuals can obtain a permit through the city administration for small fireworks. Only an individual with a license can stage a foireworls display.

The ordinance, however doesn’t give the city the authority to issue citations to violators, he said.

Squires said the city currently follows the Alaska State Statute in regard to fireworks. The state’s statute makes the illegal use of fireworks a Class B misdemeanor, and calls for a $5,000 fine and a 1-year sentence in jail.

That statute, Squires said, may be more than the city requires.

“I don’t think we need to go that far,” he said. “The original concept of our fireworks ordinance was to look at the congested part of the city where it would be dangerous if someone lit it off and it may pose a danger to a person or their property. If you shoot off fireworks and it injures someone or damages somebody’s property, you could get a ticket.”

Seward Police Department Lt. Doreen Valadez said the city doesn’t currently have the ability to write fireworks citations. But should injury or damage result from fireworks use, Valadez said, officers would follow state statutes, resulting in charges of assault, criminal mischief or reckless endangerment for non-permitted or unlicensed fireworks. Vice Mayor Marianna Keil said the public should have input on the creation of a fireworks citation program.

“I think this is a matter for a work session rather than going into full-blown discussion right here and now about what we want,” Keil told members of the council. “The public needs to be involved in this particular issue.”

City Manager Jim Hunt said city officials would work on ideas for the program and present them to the council in the near future so that a special work session could be held.

Squires also said the current city ordinance should be reviewed to be sure the city has insurance coverage.

“If something happens and endangers someone’s life or their property, then we need to be covered,” Squires said.

 

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