Huge decrease in damage on 1st Halloween of fireworks ban, Vancouver fire department says

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Discarded fireworks in a park in Vancouver on Nov. 5, 2019.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Discarded fireworks in a park in Vancouver on Nov. 5, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Fire officials in Vancouver reported a huge decrease in damage on the first Halloween of a city-wide ban on fireworks.

While residents across the city reported hearing and seeing fireworks despite the ban, Vancouver Fire Rescue Services said crews last weekend responded to 10 fewer fires caused by fireworks than last year.

Last Halloween, damage to property caused by fireworks was estimated at $408,000 but this year it was just $5,500, VFRS said.

Asst. Chief Dave Meers says the ban is a step in the right direction but he doesn't expect people to change their habits overnight.

"We need this to turn into a long-term trend. It's going to take a cultural change for us to see a distinct decline in fires and risk to public safety caused by fireworks," he said.

No tickets issued

The ban means a fine of $1,000 can be issued for the sale, possession and discharge of fireworks.

Yet despite people still using fireworks in the city, police didn't issue a single ticket — due to a spike in crime last weekend, according to the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).

"We saw [fireworks], we heard them, we received calls, but we were simply too busy dealing with criminal offences, violent crime and other public safety issues," VPD Sgt. Steve Addison said.

"We were not able to devote a lot of time to people setting off fireworks in the city."

David Horemans/CBC
David Horemans/CBC

VPD received 4,550 calls for service during the weekend, 2,418 of which were placed to 911 — a 10 per cent increase on the same weekend last year.

Addison said violent incidents included one homicide, several serious injuries and at least five reports of sexual assault, and that four police officers were also assaulted.

Difficult to fine for fireworks

According to the City of Vancouver, if park rangers come across people setting off fireworks, they defer to VFRS or VPD to enforce the rule.

But that can be difficult for firefighters, Meers said.

"Fire investigators can write municipal tickets. However, it's a pretty sticky thing if you're trying to chase down kids at a park who are shooting off roman candles at each other," he said.

"We would have to catch them in the act. We can't apprehend them because we do not have powers like the police have. We'd have to try to get their ID, to issue them a ticket."

VFRS said it recognizes there will be future challenges with people having the ability to purchase fireworks from other municipalities not affected by the ban, or through online purchases that remain unregulated.

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