Fireworks return to committee

The Fairfield City Council?s public safety and transportation committee met Thursday to discuss an ordinance that would limit discharging fireworks in the city to July 4 and Dec. 31.

The committee had recommended passage of the ordinance a few months ago, which had sailed through its first two readings on unanimous votes before the council tabled it Feb. 12. At that meeting, resident Brian Hawthorne asked the council to reconsider its plan to dramatically shrink the window of allowable discharge days.

Hawthorne argued the reduction would hurt fireworks sales and the vendors who rely on them, and it might cause people to try to shoot off all their fireworks on one day instead of spacing them out over several days. He urged the council to allow a three-day window for discharging fireworks around Independence Day. His arguments persuaded the council, who told the public safety committee to re-examine the proposal.

Committee members Michael Halley and Katy Anderson spoke about how the council?s ordinance adopted in 2017, which allowed for fireworks between June 30 and July 8, and from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2, came to be. At the time, the committee recommended nine summer discharge days to allow families to celebrate on the weekends before and after the holiday. Anderson said she still sees value in giving residents that flexibility.

The committee members wondered aloud if they could set the allowable days each year, just like the council selects a day for trick-or-treating. Fire chief and code enforcement officer Scott Vaughan reminded the committee that fireworks sales will begin June 1.

?People will buy them and set them off no matter what,? he said.

Police chief David Thomas sees little difference between a small and a large window for discharging fireworks, and that one is no safer than the other. He said most of the calls his department fielded were from people who were upset with the change to the state?s fireworks law, which allowed fireworks sales for the first time in nearly 80 years.

Halley added, ?I don?t think it?s as much a safety issue as it is a quality of life issue affecting people trying to put their kids to sleep, or people who have [post traumatic stress disorder].?

Lt. Colin Smith echoed Vaughan?s sentiment that it?s a difficult law to enforce.

?Ninety-five percent of the time, the people [who discharged the fireworks] are gone by the time we arrive,? he said.

Thomas said one disadvantage to changing the fireworks dates every year is that the dispatch center will be inundated with calls from people wondering what they are.

The committee decided to ask City Attorney John Morrissey if it can set the fireworks dates every year like it does trick-or-treating. No further action was taken.