Ordinances Govern Use of Fireworks the BIG BANG!

By Rezab, Matthew | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), June 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Ordinances Govern Use of Fireworks the BIG BANG!


Rezab, Matthew, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


The summer of 1931 was hot and dry, even by western Iowa standards.

More than 100 Iowans had died of heat-related illnesses by June 27, when it was 97 degrees in Spencer. America's upcoming 155th Independence Day celebration was about the only thing the farmers and business owners had to look forward to.

Otto Bjornstad's drug store was like any other of the day. Full of tonics, cleaning supplies and candy, it was the 40-foot-long table filled with fireworks that caught the attention and imagination of the neighborhood school boys.

No one really knows exactly what happened next, whether it was a boy being careless or mischievous, but the sparkler he was holding made its way into the other fireworks on display. The resulting explosion was said to be audible throughout the city.

By the time it was said and done, almost 100 buildings - and by some miracle, zero lives - had been lost.

On July 4, 1936, in Remsen, Iowa, 15 homes and 18 buildings burnt to the ground after a firecracker started a tent on fire.

By 1938, most fireworks in Iowa were banned - until 10 days ago. That's just fine with former Dubuquer Mike Cannon, who now resides in Clinton.

"I like anything that goes boom and explodes," he said while perusing the selection at Tri-State Fireworks in Hazel Green, Wis., last week. "We can take them out to my brother's farm in Bernard and have a lot of fun (now that they're legal)."

The legislation

After failed pushes to legalize consumer fireworks in recent years, lawmakers this year succeeded in legalizing first- and second-class consumer fireworks.

First-class consumer fireworks, which now are legal to sell, possess and use in Iowa, include aerial shell kits, firecrackers, missile-type rockets and roman candles.

Second-class fireworks are mostly items that are handheld or stay on the ground after they are lit.

Vendors in Iowa can sell consumer fireworks in permanent structures from June 1 through July 8 and temporary structures from June 13 through July 8. Fireworks also can be sold from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3.

Iowa Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said she supported the bill because eastern Iowans already had ready access to fireworks and used them.

"I think the bottom line is that people from Iowa are going to cross the border and buy it anyway," she said. "They're using (fireworks) whether they're illegal or not. Why wouldn't we allow the sales here and pick up the tax revenue?"

The law requires vendors to purchase a license to sell fireworks. Depending on floor space, building permanence and types of fireworks, licenses range from $100 to $1,000. The state and municipalities will collect normal, consumer-good taxes on sold fireworks.

State Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, voted against legalization. She said temporary pop-up stands could make Iowa look like a "tent city."

"This is not the right thing for our state," she said. "There's not enough reward for the risk. We don't know how much it will cost us in injuries and property damage."

When then-Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law last month, it made Iowa the 43rd state to allow the sales of most fireworks.

Local control

Some lawmakers say the legislation gained more traction this year because it allows city councils and county boards to enact their own ordinances banning or limiting the use of consumer-class fireworks in their respective communities.

Dubuque already has a fireworks ordinance banning the possession and use of consumer-class fireworks inside city limits.

Assistant City Attorney Maureen Quann said City Council members took the first step to amend the ordinance at their meeting last week to ensure that city and state code are in agreement with each other.

Under the amendment, the city would "strike the prohibition on possession of consumer fireworks but continue to prohibit the use of consumer fireworks," according to a city memo. …

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