Red Deer’s fire chief and emergency services manager Ken McMullen (Advocate file photo.)

Red Deer city council plays it safe with fireworks bylaw

Fire chief directed to draft restrictive rules on fireworks sales

Armed with a box of explosives and three options, Red Deer fire chief Ken McMullen asked city council for a clear direction in drafting a new fireworks bylaw on Monday.

McMullen’s last proposed fireworks bylaw was effectively shot down last spring when council reached a voting stalemate and couldn’t approve it.

This time he passed around samples of different explosives to give city councillors a better idea of what could be approved. Some had wrappers marked with directions cautioning bystanders to stand back by 160 metres since the firework would be launched 16 metres into the air.

“There’s no backyard in the city that can safely accommodate that,” remarked Coun. Vesna Higham.

In the end the majority on city council played it safe and selected the third option, which was recommended by city administration.

It replicates the practises that were in place in Red Deer for the past 35 years and outlaws fireworks sales (exempting sparklers).

The rejected options were: to have no local fireworks bylaw but to rely instead on the Federal Explosives Act; or to enable limited sales — a week before Canada Day and New Year’s Day were suggested.

Although no fireworks charges were laid in the city in memory, most councillors voted to play it safe. Coun. Michael Dawe said he didn’t like the idea of people setting off explosives in the backyards, patios or decks. “It’s not a situation we want to encourage.”

While Coun. Dianne Wyntjes thought council should explore the possibilities of limited sales and not restrict fun, acting Mayor Tanya Handley noted the public would still get to see fireworks — only the authorized ones set off by professionals during Red Deer Lights the Night or Westerner Days.

Handley felt there were too many unknowns with limited sales — such as how would this be enforced, who would be an approved vendor, and which holidays would be included?

John Adria, owner of Uncle John’s Fireworks in Edmonton, was satisfied with council’s decision, saying he didn’t like the idea of larger fireworks being set off within city limits either.

If Red Deer County and other rural municipalities in the area follow Red Deer’s example and outlaw local fireworks sales, Adria said it’s better for his business as a lot of central Albertans are buying fireworks at his business and setting them off of their farms or acreages.

McMullen was also satisfied with the direction given to him by council.

Although councillors could still decide to exempt various small fireworks as well as sparklers from the ban, he’s pleased council went with the safer option.

The revised proposed fireworks bylaw is expected to go before council later this year.

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