City seeks to prevent fireworks problems

Ordinance would limit where, when items can be used

City Council next week may consider a proposal for an ordinance designed to prevent the kind of fireworks problems that occurred last July 4, after the state liberalized its fireworks law.

The prospective ordinance would limit when during the day fireworks could be set off — a restriction lacking in the 2017 state law — and might also include restrictions present in the state law, to ensure they can be enforced locally, according to solicitor Dan Stants, who has been working on the proposal with Mayor Matt Pacifico and Councilman Erik Cagle.

The proposed ordinance would be similar to ones already in place in Logan Township and Tyrone, Stants said.

The ordinance would at least be a stopgap, until advocates for reversing the liberalization at the state level get a chance to make their case in the General Assembly, Cagle and Pacifico indicated.

They hope the ordinance will be in place before Memorial Day.

Last year, after July 4, city officials fielded a fusillade of concerns.

“My neighborhood was a war zone,” stated a visitor to a City Council meeting in August. “It was crazy.”

At least one councilman said he received “exponentially” more complaints than in previous years.

Complaints cited the frequency, timing and strength of explosions, their proximity to houses and fears that structures would catch fire.

The fireworks especially distressed combat veterans, pets and the elderly, Stants said.

The city needs to be careful not to contradict what the state allows, officials said.

The state’s liberalization allowed for common use of more powerful types of fireworks than the snakes and sparklers that were previously the only ones permitted, Stants said.

Thus, there’s no longer a prohibition on firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets — although M-80s, blockbusters and cherry bombs are still illegal without a professional license.

The city can’t prohibit the types of fireworks the state now permits, Stants said.

But it can restrict the times when those can be used, he said.

The new ordinance won’t allow for people to set off fireworks in the middle of the night, the solicitor said.

Among other provisions he expects to include, even though they’re prohibited in the state law, are a prohibition against setting off fireworks within 150 feet of occupied buildings and against setting them off without permission from property owners, Stants said.

“We’re going to try to see if there’s a way we can do it now to take care of some of the problems,” Pacifico said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.