The District of Sicamous is proceeding with a ban on the sale, transportation, storage and discharge of fireworks.
The ban will pertain only to commercial/public sales, storage and use of fireworks, and will not affect the Canada Day and Christmas tree light-up fireworks shows. The rules surrounding professionally handled display fireworks at large community gatherings will remain the same, with a certified fireworks supervisor required and permits signed off on by the fire chief.
“They have the proper insurance, they have the proper skills and training. Those people are the professionals who I feel should be the only ones shooting them off,” commented district Fire Chief Brett Ogino.
The decision to proceed with the ban stemmed from a report by Ogino, received by Sicamous council at the Jan. 16 district committee of the whole meeting. The report outlined several possibilities including an outright ban on fireworks sales.
Ogino reported at the Jan. 16 meeting that the current fireworks bylaw, which requires businesses to pay an annual $500 fee for the right to sell fireworks and record all their fireworks sales, is difficult to enforce. The current bylaw has customers write a safety test and buy permits from the district allowing them to purchase and set off fireworks.
An option of limiting fireworks sales and discharge to Halloween and New Years only was raised in Ogino’s presentation, with a ban placed on the sales, storage and transportation of fireworks the rest of the year, with significant penalties enforcing the regulations. Although Halloween and New Years are outside the main fire season, Ogino noted dangers and challenges still remain.
A total ban on consumer fireworks was the fire chief’s recommendation to council. Council directed district staff to draft a new bylaw to implement the ban. Ogino recommended fines of $500 to $2,000 per offence.
Ogino said with the current prevalence of fireworks, his firefighters need to be wary when responding to fires, both at houses and vehicles where the fireworks may be stored in the trunk. He said there have been a few incidents where fireworks or firearm ammunition stored in structures on fire has made the job of firefighting more hazardous.
The fire chief also noted incidents when fireworks have started fires which threatened homes. He recalled one incident approximately three years ago when unsafely-handled fireworks started a brush fire in the Bayview area which burned close to houses.
“Fortunately, it was between houses and we were able to get onto it quite quickly. We had a hydrant right next to it so we were quite fortunately that way,” Ogino said.
“I’ve been trying to do some control on fireworks for almost 10 years now so it’s not something new.”
Ogino said he doesn’t anticipate too much opposition to the new bylaw from the community, but the two retailers who still carry fireworks might not be happy with the district’s move.
Columbia Shuswap Regional District Bylaws have prohibited the sale and discharge of consumer fireworks in Electoral Areas C, E and F, spanning most of the Shuswap’s rural areas. In areas C and F, a permit can be purchased allowing fireworks discharge, recognizing celebrations such as Halloween and New Years Eve.
Jim Nickles, the Salmon Arm Fire Department’s fire prevention officer, commented fireworks are not banned in Salmon Arm because the city has never had a problem with their misuse. When burning bans go into effect due to fire hazard levels, Salmon Arm places a temporary ban on fireworks.