Pre-emptive strike: Shaker council votes to continue local ban on consumer fireworks -

2022-05-19 09:28:11 By : Ms. Sabrina Chow

Roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers are among the "consumer-grade" fireworks still banned in Shaker Heights -- in contradiction to a new state law that takes effect in July. As they are allowed to do, local officials want to get out in front of that one. Dan Gleiter | HARHAR

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- In contradiction to a new state law that takes effect in July, City Council voted Monday (April 25) to continue its local ban on consumer-grade fireworks.

Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney called it “common sense legislation” to amend the city’s fire code, with City Law Director William Ondrey Gruber explaining that up until now, Shaker’s fireworks ordinance deferred to state law.

That has now changed, since the state legislature last year passed a bill that allows the use of firecrackers, bottle rockets and “fountain devices” such as Roman candles on and around 10 holidays -- about 20 days in all, Sweeney noted.

“If we do not make changes to our ordinance, this just becomes an accident waiting to happen,” Sweeney said. “This is an older, built-out and densely populated inner-ring community, not a rural area where there are open spaces and fields to set off fireworks.”

On Monday, Shaker council opted to forgo three extended readings and pass the measure upon introduction after Councilwoman Carmella Williams asked if people should be allowed a “grace period” once the state law goes into effect, given the conflict that will ensue.

Council then voted unanimously to get the fireworks ban on the books as quickly as possible in order to get the word out early.

Neighboring University Heights passed its version of the fireworks ban in February, and Sweeney said he was glad to see Shaker adopt theirs “sooner rather than later.”

Local permits, a state pyrotechnic license and liability insurance are still required for professional “display-grade” fireworks. The ban will not apply to “novelty-grade” fireworks, such as sparklers, “party poppers” and lighting sticks known as “punks,” although adult supervision for those is still required.

In a March work session with council, Sweeney said he expects to see a lot more consumer-grade fireworks stores and stands popping up in time for the Fourth of July.

“It’s important to get the word out early, with as consistent of a message as possible,” Councilwoman Anne Williams said of the local ban.

Police Chief Jeff DeMuth said earlier that Ohio had a “quirky law” to begin with, previously allowing the sale of consumer-grade fireworks in the state, as long as the buyer signed a form agreeing to transport the purchased items -- containing no more than 50 grams of explosives -- out of the state within 48 hours to set them off there.

This has always made enforcement difficult, along with the fact that police officers basically need to witness fireworks going off in order to pursue misdemeanor charges.

Noting in March that fireworks use, at least from an anecdotal standpoint, appeared to be on the increase in recent years, Vice Mayor Sean Malone asked Monday if there had been any further feedback from residents on the ban.

“The ones I hear from want it -- ‘yesterday,’” Councilwoman Nancy Moore said, having earlier cited the trauma inflicted on pets and subsequently their owners.

With other communities also considering fireworks bans, Sweeney said he has not heard from other fire chiefs “about any blowback over local prohibitions on the new state law.”

“It’s good that we’re being aggressive and sending a clear message on this,” Sweeney added.

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