EPD: Education key for 4th of July fireworks enforcement

Published 3:31 pm Monday, July 9, 2018

With changes comes an adjustment period.

That was the case during this past holiday season as the Elizabethton Police Department worked to enforce the city’s fireworks ordinance during Independence Day.

City Council passed an ordinance in September 2017 that banned the sale and discharge of fireworks within the city limits. Prior to the passage, the city allowed fireworks but limited the sale of fireworks for two periods of the year — June 20 through July 5 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 2 — for roughly 15 years.

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According to EPD Chief Jason Shaw, the department received nine complaints during the Fourth of July and two additional calls into the midnight hours. Shaw added that as of Monday, EPD received five complaints in regards to fireworks during the post-holiday session.

Shaw assisted during the evening hours on Independence Day and added that the department worked with citizens to make sure they were aware of the revamped ordinance.

“If we saw someone shooting fireworks, we just advised them of the change and most people understood,” he said. “Personally, I saw a decrease in the amount of fireworks in the city and I believe that comes with the new ordinance.”

The change in the ordinance came from Council members mentioning they received several complaints from citizens in regards to fireworks usage within the city, especially during the post-holiday time. Council held a public hearing before approving the measure. The changed ordinance indicated that the city fire marshal has the power to permit the use of fireworks within city limits for public or private displays when all necessary provisions are met by Tennessee Code Annotated and the National Fire Protection Association. According to the ordinance, a fine of $50 along with court costs would be issued to those that violate the law.

Even during talks prior to the change, it was noted there could be some difficulty in enforcing the law. The police chief indicated the holiday was a time to make sure the public continues to be aware of the change.

“It is an educational opportunity,” Shaw said. “The ordinance wasn’t passed for us to go out and write everyone a ticket. It was passed to do our best and stop the usage of fireworks in the city due to the concerns that were brought before Council.”

For 2018 during the previous sale period, Shaw stated there were 21 calls in regards to fireworks. That is down from calls in 2017 (16) but 2016 saw the department receive 23.

“It’s hard to compare numbers since this was the first year of enforcement,” he said. “We did our best this year to make sure the public was aware of the ordinance change. We were able to get the announcement out in different media outlets to make sure people knew about the change.”