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Explosion of complaints prompts Tofino to consider fireworks ban

Tofino’s district office considering stricter restrictions.

An explosion of complaints has Tofino’s district office considering stricter restrictions on fireworks displays, including a potential mandate to only allow certified pyrotechnicians to light them.

Tofino’s residents and visitors are currently permitted to light fireworks on Canada Day, America’s Independence Day, Halloween, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

In an April 26 presentation to council, fire chief and manager of protective services Brent Baker said the district’s bylaw enforcement department has seen an increase in fireworks related complaints and recommended that council consider banning them altogether.

Coun. Al Anderson asked if a permit system could be used to allow fireworks to continue on currently permitted holidays, suggesting some resorts have hosted successful displays in the past.

Baker responded that any permits should only be granted to certified pyrotechnic professionals.

“Individuals, if we went that way, would have to show proof of certification and a complete safety plan,” he said. “In the past, some of the fireworks (displays) put on at various places have not been done in that manner and really have not had the oversight that they could have…I’d like to make sure that if we go that route where it is allowable under some circumstances, that there’s a lot more oversight and thought put into carrying it off safely and having proper planning in place.”

Mayor Dan Law warned that he would vote against banning personal, non-professional, fireworks displays on the days they are currently permitted.

Baker told the Westerly News after the meeting that he plans to lay out various options to council at a future meeting.

“The issue of fireworks has been one that the community has been speaking out about for quite some time,” he said. “The community has been quite open about how they feel…It’s something that people want to see changed. (Fireworks) are happening at all hours of the night in all different parts of town.”

He noted fireworks bylaws are tough to enforce because by the time a bylaw officer receives a report and arrives at the scene, the people who were setting them off are gone.

“It’s a challenging one to deal with because they often start and finish in under a minute, so oftentimes you’re hearing about it after the fact,” he said. “It’s tricky. Nobody ever tends to know who it is doing it, so how can you enforce on somebody if you’re not sure who it is? That’s the challenge.”

He added that only allowing certified pyrotechnicians to light fireworks would alleviate safety risks.

“Then you end up with a safety plan, you end up with people that are taking wind speed and direction into consideration and a lot of different things that can really mitigate all of these very big risks…When anybody can just purchase some fireworks somewhere and go out onto the beach and light them off, you’re not necessarily getting that same level of thought put into it and that’s where we run into issues,” he said. “It’s loud, it’s inconvenient for people that might be trying to sleep, it’s really hard on people’s pets and wildlife, but the safety issue is a really big aspect of it as well…There’s a lot of change that needs to happen just to make sure that injuries are reduced and the potential for fires are reduced as well as damage to property and those types of things.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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