Fireworks enthusiasts have reason to be happy with the Wichita City Council. Residents worried about yard and roof fires from Fourth of July blast-offs in their neighborhoods are not likely to be quite as happy.
In a unanimous vote on May 16, the council approved the firing of aerial fireworks that go higher than six feet in the air for this year’s Independence Day celebrations.
The higher fireworks will be legal from July 1 to July 4 while the “Safe and Sane” fireworks that hug the ground will be legal from June 27 through July 4.
Appearing before the council, Fire Chief Tammy Snow said that it is extremely difficult to enforce the city’s prohibition against aerial fireworks because they are legal according to state law and surrounding communities laws, which makes them readily available to Wichita residents, even though they will not be sold at tents inside the city limits this year.
At the same time the council approved the change, they also upped the penalty for shooting off fireworks after the cutoff hour of midnight or for firing off bottle rockets or floating lanterns, both of which are prohibited by state law.
Fines for violators are being increased from $250 for a first violation to $1,000. Fines increase with repeated violations, going to $2,000 on a second offense and to $3,000 for a third violation. Fees for tent vendors to sell the larger fireworks will also increase by $10.
Chief Snow said that the largest number of complaints last year were about fireworks being fired outside of the hours of 10 a.m. to midnight and about debris left in lawns or streets following neighborhood celebrations.
Improper disposal biggest cause of fires
Snow also told the council that most house fires are caused by residents who don’t properly dispose of fireworks waste.
“We got a fire prevention safety grant last year and we targeted improper disposal. What happens is people sweep up debris and put it in their regular trash dumpster. Then they put that dumpster back in the garage or slide it up against the side of the house. If there’s anything smoldering in there, it gets a fire started and sets the side of the house on fire. So we developed a campaign to educate people about the danger and teach them how to safely dispose of debris in a bucket of water or an airtight, fireproof container.”
She said the fire and police departments will be “very strict” about enforcing the restrictions on fireworks, including the allowable dates for aerials and the hours when it’s legal to shoot.
Fireworks Safety Tips
- Never allow young children to handle fireworks
- Older children should use fireworks only under close adult supervision
- Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
- Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
- Never light them indoors
- Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person
- Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
- Never ignite devices in a container
- Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
- Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire