“Typically it hasn’t been bad,” he says. “It’s a fairly responsible community. It’s a young community, and everybody’s worried about their children, so it’s pretty good that way.”
The fire department won’t be out hunting down those in contravention of the fire prevention bylaw, but is prepared to respond to any complaints. Since its inception in March, Burrows says he hasn’t had any.
“There’s no way we can stop people from doing it, but if we do receive a complaint we go to investigate,” he explains. ”They can be fined under the bylaw or after hours the RCMP may, if it’s a real problem, deal with it themselves or call the bylaw people to deal with it.”
At less than a year, it’s too soon to tell what effect the new ban will have on fireworks-related fire numbers. However, Surrey Deputy Fire Chief Jon Caviglia says their community has seen a major drop in incidents since the city decided to only allow the use of fireworks on a permit basis.
“In 2004, before we had a requirement to have a permit, we had 90 fire-related calls to fireworks on Halloween,” he says. “In 2005, when the permit requirement came in, it dropped to 18, and it has since dropped down to about five we average over the last four or five years.”
Caviglia adds that just having the regulations can also help parents control their children’s use of fireworks, as it’s simply not permitted in the city.
“It allows police in your city to confiscate from teenagers if they’re out in the streets using them, and they can actually fine them,” although he admits confiscation is likely more common than fines.
Locally, Chief Burrows also believes that having provincial rules on the use of fireworks would help with other issues. Residents can buy fireworks only 10 minutes outside of town in Charlie Lake, where the local bylaw is no longer in effect unless a provincial fire ban is in effect. Unlawfully discharging fireworks in the PRRD comes with a $100 fine under Bylaw No. 860, 1994.
“It really gets out of hand being unregulated in the Regional District, particularly in the summer months when you’re in between or in the fringe of having a shutdown because of fire season,” he argues. “If there’s a provincial rule and cut and dry guidelines, it would probably make it a lot easier for everybody.”
When the Fort St. John bylaw came into effect, it also prohibited the sale of fireworks within the city. The response from retailers has been mixed, with some complaining that the business they used to get has now moved to the Regional District, but Burrows maintains it shouldn’t matter as they’re still not allowed to set them off in the city. He adds he’s heard from at least one store that they’re relieved due to the hassle of storing unsold fireworks safely.
“If you get a large inventory or shipment of fireworks and you don’t sell them, you’re responsible to store them safely until next year,” he says. “That was a problem for that particular retailer, and now that the playing field is even, nobody can sell them in town. I don’t think they’re losing any sleep over it.”