Big bang weary: Restrictive St. John's fireworks bylaw takes effect New Year's Eve

·2 min read
A new municipal bylaw restricts people from discharging fireworks, except on New Year's Eve and Canada Day. (Submitted by Ray Mackey - image credit)
A new municipal bylaw restricts people from discharging fireworks, except on New Year's Eve and Canada Day. (Submitted by Ray Mackey - image credit)
Submitted by Ray Mackey
Submitted by Ray Mackey

St. John's fireworks enthusiasts have just a couple of weeks to get their fill, because starting next year they're going to get a lot less bang for their buck.

A City of St. John's bylaw — approved in June and taking effect Dec. 31 — requires a special events permit to set off fireworks, except on New Year's Eve and Canada Day from 7:30 p.m. until half an hour after midnight.

Coun. Maggie Burton said city council has heard complaints from the public about fireworks for years.

"The concerns range from 'It wakes up my children' to 'My dog is terrified of fireworks,' and pets go missing," said Burton, who noted the loud noises produced by fireworks have the potential to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. "It's also a sensory issue for many people."

Paradise, Conception Bay South and Mount Pearl all have similar firework bylaws.

Fireworks vendor Brian Ellsworth is concerned about what the change will mean for sales during an already difficult time caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

"As soon as the pandemic hit, we were down business, 100 per cent down overnight," Ellsworth said. "Everything we do, conventions or conferences and things like that, were totally just gone. And even now, we're still not back to where we want to be.… Something like the family fireworks sales at the end of year, it's a little boost to give us a bit more revenue within the year."

But Ellsworth said he hopes another fireworks decision by the city a few years ago — to set off fireworks at 8 p.m. instead of midnight — will boost sales among people who still want a "midnight celebration at home."

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

The bylaw also sets out rules and restrictions on how fireworks can be discharged. People must be 18 years and older to discharge fireworks. Fireworks cannot be thrown in, into, or on buildings, vehicles, public roads or public places. People must have a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water ready for immediate use and they need to follow instructions printed on the fireworks' package.

Burton said the city can issue a warning or a fine of up to $5,000 to people who break the new bylaw, and said people can report illegal fireworks use to the city by calling 311.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

The bylaw doesn't come into effect until New Year's Eve, so anyone hoping to use fireworks to celebrate this year's holiday season is still permitted to do so. Burton urged caution for anyone setting them off.

"Remember the consequences that it has on people in their areas and do so in a responsible and respectful way."

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