EDMONTON – The fireworks industry says an Alberta proposal to regulate family fireworks would take the bang and sparkle out of celebrating events such as Canada Day.
The province is considering changes to its fire code that would force municipalities to pass bylaws to either ban fireworks such as Roman candles and bottle rockets or strictly regulate their sale and use.
The concern is that consumer fireworks can injure people and cause fires.
The Canadian National Fireworks Association said Alberta’s proposal would effectively ban these types of fireworks in many communities. It maintains the products are safe if they are used properly.
“The CFNA is concerned that if Alberta bans legal fireworks it will drive the sale and purchase of the products underground,” association executive director Dominique Allen said Friday.
“If a consumer wants to use fireworks they will figure out a way to buy them.”
The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association has been asking the provincial government for an outright ban.
The government decided to conduct a survey that suggested about half of the communities in the province want to make their own decision about fireworks.
Alberta Municipal Affairs spokesman Jerry Ward said the government proposal being considered would leave the decision to municipalities.
“We are going to update the Alberta fire code and it will spell out that municipalities have the ability to either allow or ban the sale and use of family fireworks,” Ward said.
If a community decides to allow fireworks, it would have to pass a bylaw that would require retailers and people to buy a permit to sell, purchase or use them.
Ward said the Alberta government will consider the new policy this fall.
Allen said such a bylaw would be costly for municipalities to administer and enforce.
The fire code changes would not affect professional fireworks displays at events such as municipal Canada Day celebrations, the Calgary Stampede or Edmonton’s K-Days.
Some Alberta communities have no fireworks policy. Some communities, such as Calgary, already ban family fireworks.
Edmonton allows them as long as people get a permit from the fire department, have written permission from the property owner where they are to be set off, and have insurance.
The city issued a fireworks safety announcement Friday warning people that even simple fireworks such as firecrackers and sparklers can cause third-degree burns.
Deputy Fire Chief Russell Croome said some sophisticated consumer fireworks can shoot a flaming or exploding projectile more than 30 metres or spew flames high into the air.
People could be hit with burning shrapnel or the projectile could start a fire in a building or in trees and brush, he said.
There is also the danger that the firework could explode when being lit.
“Everybody is at risk of being injured by these,”Croome said. “You want to put on a fun display for your family but you could be putting them at risk.”
Croome said the once the Alberta government makes a decision on the new policy, the Edmonton Fire Service will make a recommendation to city council on a new bylaw, but what happens will ultimately be up to the politicians.
He said if you ask a firefighter, they will tell you that fireworks should be set off by professionals, not by people in their back yards.
“We would rather that they go to the professional displays and watch a fantastic, safely run display.”
The Canadian National Fireworks Association says it is a non-profit organization with about 2,200 members including retailers, distributors, manufacturers, pyrotechnicians and people who just love fireworks.