Mason City council hears positive results of changes in fireworks ordinance
MASON CITY — The City Council in Mason City appears that they’ll not look to change the city’s fireworks ordinance in the near future.
The council voted last December to restrict the detonation of commercial-grade fireworks to July 3rd and 4th between 6:00 and 11:00 PM, and that the illegal use of fireworks would allow officers to issue a $250 municipal infraction. The council revisited the issue during a workshop session this week.
Police Chief Jeff Brinkley says the number of calls for service related to fireworks dropped from 258 in June and July of 2018 to 117 during the same time period this year. He feels the new rules, including on the restriction of temporary fireworks sales tents to industrial zones of the community, certainly helped. “117 is a pretty good number. We did not put out any extra patrol this year, because we didn’t get busy with this stuff until getting into July — 3rd, 4th, and 5th. You look there, the numbers weren’t overwhelming to patrol either. Outside of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, the 6th and 7th of July were the other nights when we had more than a handful of reports, and the rest of it is pretty sporadic, three is your next biggest number. That’s something we can handle on patrol the way we’re staffed. I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Brinkley feels at this point a complete ban on detonating fireworks would lead to more calls for service being made. “We’ve narrowed it down to a two-day window now. We’ve spent a lot of effort to try to get that message out. I think that if we ban the use, we’re probably running on these calls from June 10th till end of summer would be my guess.”
Brinkley says they mostly issued warnings to violators, but his department will write tickets starting next year. “We took an approach this year where we tried to warn everybody we could identify setting them off, and that seemed to work. I would say 90% of the people that we warned weren’t aware of the change or aware of what the legal shooting times were. Next year, I think we come out hard writing tickets, which I wouldn’t have any heartburn doing in year two. I think that will continue to impact that number, keep it low.”
Fire Chief Erik Bullinger says he’s astounded that his department only received one fireworks injury-related call this summer. “I would say that I’m actually a little bit surprised. With legalization of fireworks, I would have really expected the numbers higher than this, across the state and here, I would have really thought there would be a higher number. Maybe we’re just a little bit more responsible than I thought.”
An informal poll of the council resulted in none of the members being interested in changing the current fireworks code.