Other Voices: Outline for community planning on fireworks | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Outline for community planning on fireworks

Now that July Fourth of 2007 has faded into our collective memory, we have several months to hold a community discussion concerning the appropriateness of private fireworks displays in Nevada County and its cities. We didn’t have any reported significant fires or serious injuries as a result of private fireworks this year. Is it reasonable to believe that we will not have such an event? I personally heard illegal firecrackers on the evening of July Fourth in Grass Valley.

Some have noted that fireworks are safe in the hands of responsible adults. Maybe so, but what about the fireworks in the hands of children whose parents encourage them to “light” the fuse? What about the adults who had been enjoying the party too much before they light the fuse? What about the fuse that goes out before the firework goes off? A few days before July Fourth, The Union reported in the police blotter that there had been a report of juveniles driving and throwing firecrackers out of their vehicle. Most adults are responsible, but it only takes one irresponsible adult, juvenile or child to negate the responsibility of all of us.

I believe that the sale and use of private fireworks ” in a high fire-risk county and at the time of its highest fire danger level ” are considerably less than prudent.

So I believe there is a problem. Do I have a solution? We should move our private fireworks displays and sales to the first dry day on, or after, Dec. 31 and use other appropriate means to honor our nation on July Fourth. Our national tradition includes parades, visits from friends, picnics and public civic events. Fireworks can easily be replaced by glow sticks, pinwheel streamers, glitter, lighted buttons and other similar items. Adults can be creative with their children without the use of gunpowder, other materials and iron filings. Francis Scott Key was not writing about fireworks over New York City, he was writing about “bombs bursting in air” over Fort McHenry ” a terrifying military sight at the time.

What does my suggestion entail?

1) Allow charitable organizations to sell safe and sane fireworks in the week between Dec. 20 and Dec. 31.

2) Allow the use of fireworks in the incorporated cities on the first dry day on or after Dec. 31.

3) Allow public fireworks displays on July Fourth in a public venue, such as the fairgrounds.

4) Discourage the sale of fireworks at any other time.

5) Ban private fireworks in all areas of Nevada County and its cities at any other time.

What will be the effect? Organizations can begin planning now for the sale of fireworks in the last 10 days of December 2007. They will get two bites of the apple this year.

With only public fireworks displayed in July 2008, it would seem that the organizers will have a larger audience and can spread the cost to make it less expensive to attend the event at the fairgrounds. It will be clear where and when fireworks are allowed. A map was needed in 2007 to know where fireworks could be displayed, even in the cities.

Now, how do we get there? By Sept. 15, every service club, homeowners’ association, political central committee, veterans group, charity organization and other organized groups should put this subject on their agenda for discussion and adoption of a consensus position. These position papers should be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors and city councils for their consideration. Individual citizens could compose letters to the editor or contact their representatives directly. This will give the organizations selling fireworks time to complete their planning.

I have offered an outline to begin a community discussion. Now is the time to decide what we want. July 1, 2008 is too late. If the community desires to continue with fireworks in July, it should be a decision in which we all participate. This is not about being patriotic or unpatriotic; it’s about safety in a county prone to devastating wildfires. This discussion is in the best tradition of citizens’ involvement in their community.


Dennis Cassella is a former director of Emergency Services for Nevada County and is currently a board member of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County.

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