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Less fireworks complaints received than previous years, police say

During the Fourth of July weekend, more than 70 calls were made to local authorities regarding the launching of fireworks in the Dickinson area — despite the fireworks ban. Dickinson Police Lieutenant Mike Hanel provides a report on the busy holiday weekend — with a plea to residents to stop with fireworks during the drought.

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Fireworks (pictured above) are currently strictly prohibited within the city of Dickinson due to the burn ban. With the 50th Roughrider Days cancelling its fireworks show, it left a mixed review from the community with some applauding local authorities and officials for not hosting the show and others retaliating and putting on their own amateur show despite the restrictions. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Over the Fourth of July weekend, local authorities were not as busy compared to previous holiday weekends. However, the Dickinson Police Department still received 74 fireworks complaints between Friday and Monday.

The total number of fireworks complaints was down from last year’s 101 incidents and still lower than what was reported in 2019 at 92 complaints. Though there were mixed reviews following the cancellation of the 50th Roughrider Days fireworks show on Independence Day, some people in Dickinson continued with their own firework displays — which were strictly prohibited.

The majority of the fireworks complaints took place during “peak hours,” or after dusk until a little past midnight. Most of those incidents occurred on July 4 — a total of 55 fireworks complaints alone.

“Despite having extra officers on staff during the Fourth, the sheer amount of fireworks complaints coming in during the ‘peak hours’ of the Fourth often prohibit the officers from taking full enforcement action during that time,” DPD Lt. Mike Hanel said. “Many times when officers arrive on the scene, the person responsible for lighting off the fireworks cannot be located and the officer is dispatched to the next call. If a person is located, the officer has the discretion of issuing a verbal or written warning, or a citation. Our main goal is to educate the public on the reasoning fireworks are banned within city limits.”

Hanel noted, “Outside of the ‘peak hours’ of the Fourth, the Dickinson PD is typically able to spend more time investigating fireworks complaints. This allows for more direct ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement.”

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Knowing that the holiday weekend would be more eventful, additional patrol officers were staffed on the street, Hanel said.

“To ensure we have proper coverage for the city during holidays, we examine data from past years to help gauge how many officers to field,” Hanel said, explaining, “This generally results in having a few extra officers come in on overtime and assist the on-duty shift during peak hours. This has worked well for us over the years and we make continual adjustments to ensure the city has adequate coverage.”

On July 2, Dickinson Fire Marshal Mark Selle announced that the permit for the Roughrider Days fireworks display was revoked due to the severe drought conditions. This announcement received a 50-50 response from the community with some applauding officials for the cancellation and others who disagreed, said Jessica Danhof, a marketing agent for the Roughrider Days.

In a proverbial catch 22, some residents have argued that had the Roughrider Commission continued with its firework show, conducted by professionals, it would have decreased the amount of amateurs from launching fireworks within the city. However, others like Danhof argue that had the Roughrider Commission held its firework display, more people would have felt entitled or brazened by the show to launch their own fireworks.

“Then there's a lot more that go off when there shouldn't be. So that was part of the decision was if we’re not (doing it), hopefully that will hold back on some of the amateurs putting off their fireworks. Obviously there were still fireworks going off but I don't think (it was) like other years when we've actually put off our fireworks,” Danhof said.

There were no reported incidents where fireworks caused damage within city limits unlike what had unfolded during the City of Williston’s annual firework display at its fairgrounds — in which a firework ember ignited a nearby grass lot.

“Though there were some people who continued to light off fireworks despite the ban, many people understood the dry conditions our area was facing and did the right thing by not lighting fireworks. The sky was much darker this year compared to years past, and we thank the citizens for their understanding. We hope moisture conditions improve for next year and we can fully enjoy the city’s commercial fireworks show again,” Hanel remarked.

From Friday to Monday, officers responded to 446 calls for service, which was up compared to 359 calls for service in 2020 and in 2019, which had 374 incidents. Excluding the peak time that dealt with fireworks complaints, DPD officers were able to conduct more “self-initiated activity” this year, Hanel said.

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The “bulk of the call volume” involved traffic stops with 96 incidents. Officers also responded to eight loud party complaints and four domestics calls. Hanel also reported that the department conducted arrests and summons with three driving under suspensions, three drug-related arrests and one incident of driving under the influence.

Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell also noted that on the fire side, it was relatively quiet weekend with only two calls for medical assistance. Despite Stark County slipping back into a low fire danger rating on Tuesday compared to last week’s very high rating, the Dickinson Fire Department encourages people to respect the burn ban.

“Regardless of the moisture and fire danger level, the personal use of fireworks are strictly prohibited within the city limits,” Presnell said.

As a community, Hanel noted that people should realize the repercussions fireworks can have not only in a dry environment but in a city area.

“It is difficult to balance our citizen’s spirit in wanting to shoot off fireworks with the public safety aspect of doing so. We encourage people (to) take a minute to understand the importance of our city’s fireworks ban, regardless of drought conditions, and realize the dangers of setting them off within an urban area,” Hanel added.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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