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Vancouver council to debate ban on sale of Halloween fireworks

Reaction is pouring in after Vancouver city councillor Pete Fry says he wants to implement a consumer fireworks ban by 2021.

A Vancouver city councillor says he wants to see the sale of consumer fireworks banned in the city.

Green Coun. Pete Fry is set to present a motion to council calling for the ban next Tuesday.

“It’s been an ongoing issue, especially for the folks who have pets or folks with PTSD, the distressing anxiety over fireworks,” Fry said by phone on Wednesday.

READ MORE: The explosive debate continues: Should Vancouver ban Halloween fireworks?

Consumer or “family” fireworks are legal to buy from certified retailers in the City of Vancouver between Oct. 25 and Oct. 31 by adults who have purchased a permit.

They are only legal for adult use on Oct. 31, on private property with permission of the owner or paths that avoid people, animals, buildings or vehicles.

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Firecrackers and bottle rockets are already banned, and violating the city’s bylaw can come with a $500 fine.

But Fry argues that system isn’t working.

Renewed call for fireworks ban in Vancouver
Renewed call for fireworks ban in Vancouver

“I did a bit more research into it and I realized that we’re one of the only municipalities in the region that actually doesn’t have a ban on fireworks,” he said.

“The damages from consumer fireworks cost in the neighbourhood of $400,000 a year on average to Vancouver Fire Rescue,” he added.

READ MORE: Keep it spooky, keep it safe, say Vancouver police as Halloween approaches

Several fires and injuries have been attributed to the use of consumer fireworks in recent years, and in 2016 a dog was killed when it ran onto the SkyTrain tracks after being spooked by fireworks.

Fry said he’s also concerned about air pollution that the displays create.

But Canadian National Fireworks Association spokesperson Melanie Sutherland said banning the sale of consumer fireworks will only push them underground, resulting in the sale of unregulated products.

Dog dies after being spooked by fireworks
Dog dies after being spooked by fireworks

Sutherland said enacting a ban would mean people who get their hands on fireworks may not be adults, and would not go through a basic safety review as they do under the permit system.

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“We offer as an association a lot of resources online, and we’re also very active within the City of Vancouver with our vendors, with retailers, with the fire department, with the police department, ensuring safe and fair access is available for consumer fireworks,” she said.

“That would all go away if a ban were to be enacted.”

READ MORE: Should the City of Vancouver ban Halloween fireworks?

She added that many people confuse legal consumer fireworks for illegal explosive firecrackers, which are already banned. She said banning family fireworks will do nothing to address that problem.

The Vancouver Fire Rescue Service has previously warned that eliminating fireworks from the city could be difficult, because they are culturally ingrained as a part of the Halloween tradition.

Fireworks Safety: the do’s and don’ts for Halloween fun
Fireworks Safety: the do’s and don’ts for Halloween fun

But it wouldn’t be without precedent. In 2016, the City of Burnaby banned the sale of family fireworks, though it still allows them to be used on Halloween with a permit.

The City of Surrey banned them in 2005, and said it saw a drop in fireworks-related fires from a high of 40 in 2004 to an average of three per year.

Fry said he’s aware the idea won’t be universally popular, but said limiting the use to organized events would pay off in the end.

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“This doesn’t necessarily shut the door on display pyrotechnics,” he said. “It would just have a little bit more rigorous enforcement.”

If approved, Fry’s motion will see the city work with police and firefighters to develop a plan next year to ban the sale of fireworks by 2021.