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No more fireworks sales in city limits: 2011 amendment didn’t curb illegal use in Dickinson

If the Dickinson Fire Department has its way, firework sales within city limits will be prohibited with adoption of the 2012 International Fire Code.

The International Fire Code does not allow for the sale of fireworks within city limits and Dickinson didn’t either, until the adoption of the 2009 fire code in 2011, Fire Chief Bob Sivak said.

Land north of Dickinson, where Memory Fireworks traditionally set up shop in the week or so before Independence Day when fireworks can be sold in North Dakota, was annexed into the city shortly before the adoption of the 2009 fire code, Sivak said. The city decided to amended the code to allow for the sale of fireworks within city limits so businesses wouldn’t be affected by the annexation.

“At the time, we looked at it as a possibility of actually helping the situation of control within city limits because the use of fireworks within city limits is prohibited and it has been for many, many years with the adoption of the code,” Sivak said.

Fireworks would still be able to be sold outside official city limits if adopted.

The Dickinson Police Department responded to 144 fireworks calls — taking 35.6 hours in total to respond — in the 10 days surrounding the 2013 Independence Day holiday.

Setting off fireworks at night — sunset is at its latest only a few days before the Fourth of July — can be a disturbance to neighbors.

“We find that the noise complaint caused by the fireworks is probably the biggest problem that neighbors and the community have,” Dickinson Police Sgt. Kylan Klauzer said.

Worse, it can become a fire hazard.

“We’ve gone from Fourth of July seasons where we’ve had one or two, maybe three, fireworks-related calls, and the other side of that is I can remember a Fourth of July several years ago — admittedly several years ago — where we ran 11 times in one evening and every one was related to fireworks,” Sivak said.

While there have been more calls for fireworks in recent years, that can mostly be attributed to the growth in the city’s population, and not so much their availability within city limits, Klauzer said. Whether fireworks tents are set up within or outside of city limits won’t make much difference in their use in the city’s borders.

Even so, having them inside the city limits hasn’t curbed their use, Sivak said.

“With the adoption of the 2012 code, it’s been the decision of the fire department — it’s been my decision — that we’re going to go back to adopting the code the way the code is written, which prohibits the retail sale of within the city,” Sivak said.

Sivak warned the Dickinson City Commission on Tuesday of his intentions to propose a ban of the sale fireworks within city limits when the adoption of the 2012 International Fire Code comes up at the March meetings.

Commissioner Carson Steiner questioned what other cities, like Bismarck or Minot, do in regards to fireworks.

One suggestion police, fire and city staff have been looking into would be allowing citizens to shoot off fireworks at a set time and place.

“If there was another location or locations like that, that would be recognized as a public gathering point, ideas like that could possibly work,” Sivak said.

On the Fourth, many people set off fireworks near the Dickinson State University Outdoor Arena while waiting for the Roughrider Commission’s professional show to begin.

“The largest danger there, quite honestly, is that the fireworks taking place adjacent to the public display get into the public and cause an incident,” Sivak said.

In an effort to better distinguish the professional fireworks show from the amateur show that precedes it, the Roughrider Commission — the agency in charge of Dickinson’s Roughrider Days festival that encompasses all events around Independence Day weekend — requested more funding from the City Commission in November. The 2013 contribution from the city was $5,000 and the city commission approved a $6,700 contribution for 2014. The city commission is not the only source of funding for the fireworks display.

If the city adopts the fire code in March — the first reading is set for March 3, and the second reading and final passage would be March 17 — it could still make changes by city ordinance to allow for other exceptions.

Citizens will have a chance to speak to the commission at first and second reading.

“I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it did not help us selling them within city limits,” Sivak said. “Can I conclusively say that, by adopting the code and making this change, we’re going to notice a difference? You know what, I can’t say that. But I can tell you that allowing the sale of them in town did not help us at all.”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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