Ordinance could ban all fireworks in city
Currently, there is a ban on fireworks in the county, but Susanville has allowed fireworks for a 24-48 hour period around July 4 and from Nov. 1 to the beginning of fire season.
Non-profits sell fireworks for 10 days before July 4 and it is the biggest money maker for the groups. If the ban is successful, non-profits will have to find a new way to raise money sometimes up to $7,000.
The council voted 4-1 to introduce ordinance number 08-00961, amending the city’s municipal code to include the banning of sales and use of fireworks.
A public hearing will be held at the Sept. 3 council meeting for people to voice their concerns, before the final vote is taken at that same meeting.
People on both sides of the issue were at the meeting to voice their concerns, including representatives from multiple Lassen County fire agencies, heads of church fund-raising organizations and county supervisors.
Dennis Revell, president and CEO of Revell Communications was also on hand. Revell Communications is the government affairs/ public relations representative for American Promotional Events, Inc., the state’s leading wholesale distributor of Safe and Sane fireworks.
Many of the people speaking against the ban tried to offer alternatives for the council, from putting garbage cans full of water all around the parking lots where Safe and Sane Fireworks are discharged, to raising the age to purchase fireworks to 18 years old.
Revell gave a PowerPoint presentation specifically highlighting a number of similar alternatives, from decreasing the number of days fireworks would be for sale, as well as a shortening of the amount of time the Safe and Sane Fireworks could be used. Several people at the meeting said they felt the whole community shouldn’t be punished because of the actions of a small number of people using fireworks incorrectly.
Revell explained during his presentation that one of the more effective alternatives as part of an ordinance that restricted but didn’t ban fireworks was the one used by the city of Chino, Calif. He said with the imposing of stiff fines and citations, the city was actually able to slightly increase revenue.
“In the first year (of new regulations) it was $1,000 per violation,” Revell said. “They issued 140 citations, and collected $100,000 in revenue. The second year, the number of citations dropped down to 70. The third and fourth years were 22 and 20. It was probably one of the best revenue generators in that city in terms of enforcement, but it had its impact.”
Susanville Fire Department Chief Stu Ratner said he had spoken with many of the groups and organizations that used the sale of fireworks as a primary source of fundraising income during this past Independence Day. He said he even urged many of them to be in attendance at the meeting, because he wanted it made perfectly clearly how while he wasn’t happy with proposing ban, he felt it was necessary.
“A combination of several factors – a record lack of spring rainfall, extremely dry vegetation, and windy weather – have created tinderbox conditions throughout Northern California in what has become a horrifically devastating fire season,” Ratner said. “Given these circumstances, it is no surprise that we come before you with an ordinance to ban fireworks. Banning fireworks may not be popular, but it is the right thing to do. Continuing to allow fireworks to be sold is a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Representatives for many of the church fundraising groups explained how the ban on selling fireworks would be a serious detriment to their ability to operate what are already shoestring budgets.
Lassen Christian Academy boardmember Vivian Tolen explained how money from the sale of fireworks was crucial for the school.
“That money is used for tuition assistance to students who otherwise wouldn’t have it,” Tolen said. “It’s used to sponsor some of the events we have for the students. It is used to keep that little school afloat. We have not come up with any other alternatives that could match what we make in such a short amount of time. It’s critical to our survival.”
Lassen County Fire Warden and Fire Chief for the Lassen-Modoc unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Brad Lutz voiced his full support of the ban. He said that many of the county’s fire agencies already had their hands full with non-preventative fires, and anything they could do to reduce the number of responses was crucial for firefighting resources.
SFD Battalion Chief Ted Friedline said he didn’t like the ordinance one bit, not only because of his patriotism but because of the fond memories he had of lighting fireworks with his children.
“I don’t want to see one of my firefighters die,” Friedline bluntly stated. “I’ll give it up for no dead firefighters.”
Almost all of the councilmembers voiced their support of the ordinance, aside from Doug Sayers. Lino Callegari, Vern Templeton and Joe Franco all explained how they had at one point served as volunteer firefighters in the county, and while they understood the lost revenue from fundraising organizations, they were more concerned with the safety of the community.
Sayers explained while he was just as concerned with the safety of the people, he was more in favor of an alternative that more effectively punished violators. He said he would never be in full support of the ban.
Mayor Kurt Bonham added the ordinance was not spitefully aimed at any of the fundraising organizations in the community. He commended Ratner on his insistence of getting the ordinance together quickly, so that it wasn’t sprung on the community next June.
The next step before the council officially votes on the ordinance will be a public hearing held at the Council’s Sept. 3 meeting, during which time the public will be able to speak either in favor of or against the ordinance one more time.
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