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City police promise strict enforcement of fireworks ordinance

Max Hrenda • Jul 3, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Though fireworks are often associated with the July 4 celebration, city safety officials ask that city residents leave them in the care of professionals.

On Tuesday, three days before Independence Day, Johnson City’s public information office issued a notice telling citizens that a city ordinance limiting the use of fireworks inside the city will be “strictly enforced” during the holiday.

City Ordinance 11-139 prohibits selling, using and storing fireworks inside Johnson City limits, and also prohibits the sale, storage, or giving away of fireworks within one mile of the city. According to Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois, the enforcement of that ordinance is not meant to deter enjoyment on July 4.

“We want people to enjoy the Independence Day holiday,” Sirois said. “It’s a great day for our country. The main takeaway from the police department’s standpoint is the safety aspect; we want people to enjoy a safe holiday.”

Every year around Independence Day, Sirois said, incidents of fireworks usage tend to increase, both before and after the holiday. While they may seem like harmless fun, some people can overlook the safety hazards fireworks present, the chief said.

“We get calls on them regularly,” he said. “It’s important to remember we have a densely populated area. There are a lot of people, residencies, business, and there is always potential danger with the use of fireworks.”

Although some people may consider location before choosing to discharge fireworks, Assistant Fire Marshal Lori Ratliff said there can be circumstances or conditions that can present unforeseen hazards.

“We’re concerned about anything that could be near a dry area, or anything that could catch on fire,” she said. “There’s a misconception that it’s OK to take them anywhere and shoot them off as long as you’re in a field and you’re away from houses. But they forget, they have to land somewhere, and not knowing where they’re going to land causes hazards.”

Over the years, Ratliff said, the number of fire incidents related to fireworks around July 4 has diminished, which she attributed to growing awareness about both fireworks safety and the city ordinance. Sirois added that was the primary motivation in the issuance of the notice.

“We put this out as a reminder that these are the city ordinances, and we’re enforcing them,” he said.

Violation of a city ordinance can come with a $50 minimum fine, and Sirois said anyone cited for violating the fireworks ordinance will be turned over to Johnson City Municipal Court.

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