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London, Ont. officials planning for Canada Day fireworks response after Victoria Day complaints

The planning comes in response to a series of complaints stemming from fireworks launched over the Victoria Day long weekend. Greg Davis / Global News

Officials in London, Ont., say planning is underway for how the city will respond to fireworks on Canada Day after celebrations over the Victoria Day long weekend yielded a series of complaints.

Under the city’s current firework bylaw, Londoners are only allowed to set off fireworks between dusk and 11 p.m. on Victoria Day and Canada Day.

Some exceptions apply and fireworks can be set off during those times on the Saturday preceding or following Canada Day if the holiday happens to land on a weekday.

Read more: Petition calling for recreational fireworks ban in Nova Scotia growing

Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis says he received “quite a number of complaints” indicating the bylaw wasn’t followed over Victoria Day.

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“The big thing that’s bothering people is the fireworks that are being set off at midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., disrupting people’s sleep, scaring animals,” Lewis told Global News.

Lewis brought up those complaints during Tuesday’s meeting of city council to ask city staff whether additional bylaw enforcement staff were available on Victoria Day, as well as what plans are being put in place to prevent similar complaints from arising come Canada Day.

The city councillor says he also raised the the matter because 2021’s Victoria Day firework response included additional staff and an after-hours phone line to field complaints.

“Staff indicated when I asked last night that they hadn’t staffed up and there wasn’t that after-hours number available … so I asked them to look into making sure that was available for people heading into Canada Day,” Lewis said.

“I have no problem with people having fun and enjoying the firework celebrations — I enjoy them myself — but they’ve got to be at the right time on the right days. They’ve got to respect the bylaw.”

Read more: Vancouver’s ban on sale and use of consumer fireworks in effect Nov. 1

Deputy Fire Chief Matt Hepditch says the London Fire Department and other city officials are now in talks on how to prepare for fireworks on Canada Day.

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“We have to have some conversations still to determine what exactly we’re going to do, but believe me it is in the works. There’s a lot of conversation, a lot of dialogue with regards to enforcement and with regards to how we staff these matters,” Hepditch said.

Even if additional staff are provided, there may still be some challenges when it comes to enforcing London’s firework bylaw.

Hepditch says that’s because most complaints only include an area of where fireworks are being discharged, rather than a specific location. Even if a specific location is provided, there’s a chance the illegal firework display could be over by the time officials arrive.

“What we need to do is we need to increase our education again, get more information out to the community and that’s one of the things I believe we will do,” Hepditch added.

As for complaints, Hepditch said the fire department received more than 30 over the weekend, including one call where firefighters responded to fireworks being discharged in a park, though no injuries were reported as a result.

Read more: ‘It was one Roman candle’: Family in legal battle after losing Vancouver home to fireworks

Elsewhere, a petition that calls for the outright ban on the sale and use of fireworks in London has garnered more than 2,000 signatures since its launch 10 months ago and received new support over the long weekend. Soon after that petition was launched, a counter-petition was started that spoke out against the ban, while also calling on the city to maintain its current fireworks bylaw.

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Lewis, the councillor pushing for additional resources to respond to firework complaints on Canada Day, disagrees with implementing a ban, adding that Londoners looking to buy fireworks could just shop in a neighbouring municipality.

“The reality is we already have a ban on fireworks 362 days of the calendar year and that hasn’t stopped fireworks from being set off outside of the prescribed times,” Lewis said.

“We also don’t want to be the city that fun forgot.”

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