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City council will set new Edmonton fireworks rules by next week

The 2016 New Year's Eve fireworks in downtown Edmonton. Global News File

Edmonton has to have new rules for fireworks that mirror federal ones by Dec. 1.

Old provincial rules no longer apply, so city councillors on the community services committee agreed Wednesday to have three readings of a new bylaw on Nov. 26.

The pressure emerged in late October, as members of the Hindu and Sikh communities pressed city council ahead of the Diwali festival. At that point, concerns were raised by industry that the new rules were going too far, said Melanie Sutherland of the Canadian National Fireworks Association.

“We became involved in that because we want to keep them alive and keep our retailers here,” she told reporters after the meeting, where councillors asked city staff to come up with the terms and conditions in a new bylaw.

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READ MORE: Future of fireworks in Edmonton in question after changes made by Ottawa

“What we’ve seen across the country — the fireworks are not going away. People find access to them anyway.

“So let’s make it easy for them, with people that are trained, are good retailers, are good upstanding members of the CNFA, and promote them instead.”

Next week, city council meeting will hear about a requirement that people would need a permit to discharge fireworks.

Coun. Sarah Hamilton said staff are considering not having that requirement. People would need an additional permit to purchase fireworks. It’s been that way for four years and Sutherland said the industry is asking the city to relax the requirement.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton New Year’s Eve Fireworks' Edmonton New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Edmonton New Year’s Eve Fireworks – Jan 1, 2019

Sutherland said the other complaint they have is the minimum “fall-out” distances the old bylaw has within city limits.

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“I’ve heard from some of the retailers [that] it’s the distance requirement for some of the community shows,” Sutherland said.

“It’s also the permitting process of having to go to the fire department during business hours, obtain a permit, then go to a retailer before you can actually purchase fireworks. A lot of people aren’t following [that]. They’re just going online… and purchasing products that way.”

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“My comfort level is not there yet,” Edmonton’s deputy fire chief Russell Croome said.

He detailed the minimum fall-out distance of 250 metres, but if there are mitigating circumstances — like if a professional who knows what they’re doing is handling the show — the city might be willing to go along with a smaller fall-out radius.

Croome said the federal fire code has specific rules in place for distances away from schools, seniors residences, hospitals or buildings with flammable liquid.

“I still think it is required, but there is a lot of conversation that needs to be had with industry.

“I think we’ll be able to find the appropriate level of oversight that will allow the events to happen, to occur safely, without any sort of a negative outcome.”

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After city council gives three readings to the new bylaw Dec. 26, city staff with community standards, the fire department, the police bomb squad and industry players will continue talks to firm up any other changes before April.

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