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Fireworks situation 'totally out of control': councillor
As a retired Vancouver firefighter, Burnaby Coun. Paul McDonell has seen the worst-case fireworks scenarios first-hand.
He's seen an entire three-storey apartment building burn down after Roman candles set its roof on fire.
He's responded to an accident where a fireworks rocket hit a woman who then died.
That's not to mention countless people getting burnt and losing fingers and eyes.
Now McDonell wants the provincial government to help cities deal with fireworks being sold and used illegally, saying the situation is getting out of control.
As reported in the NewsLeader, a 10-foot-plus high cedar hedge caught fire in South Burnaby recently as a result of youths playing with fireworks.
While Burnaby has a city bylaw around how fireworks can be sold and used, there are no fines for violations, a situation McDonell asked Burnaby Fire Department to review.
McDonell has since learned that the youths who caused the hedge fire purchased their fireworks on Craigslist and had them delivered to them at the Royal Oak SkyTrain station.
He had a look on the free online classifieds site and found 90 local postings offering fireworks for sale, many of them willing to deliver to their customers anywhere in the Lower Mainland.
He couldn't believe it.
Fireworks are dangerous and people with no licence or any qualifications are selling them on online, he said at Monday's council meeting. "We've got to get some control over this."
With municipalities using a patchwork of bylaws that lacks consistency or in some cases, enforcement tools, people selling them or setting them off illegally are getting away with it. The answer, McDonell said, is for the provincial government to implement provincewide regulations.
"Something has got to be done because it's getting totally out of control. Just drive around and see what kind of places we've got selling them. Beer and wine stores are selling bloody fireworks. On Edmonds, we've got a thrift store selling fireworks. I mean, what's going on here, it's just totally out of control and it's going to get worse."
Mayor Derek Corrigan said firefighters and police officers would likely have more sway with the province on the issue than municipal councils.
"Fire departments and police departments should be making sure this is on the agenda for the provincial government and that it's an issue made important enough to take action on," Corrigan said. Municipalities passing bylaws just for show "gives people a sense of security that doesn't exist."
McDonell plans to draft a letter to the presidents of the B.C. Fire Chiefs and B.C. Police Chiefs associations calling on them to take the issue up with the province.
He said in an interview that everyone seems to be selling fireworks, from pubs to thrift stores.
"You can't drive up Sixth Street and find an opening that doesn't say 'fireworks.' It's everywhere."
He wants to see higher licence fees for people selling them with the money used for greater education on the dangers of the explosive novelty items. And he'd like to see pressure put on Craigslist to not allow ads for fireworks sales.
"We can't ban [fireworks], it's like banning booze, it doesn't work. But we can control it."
Meanwhile, Coun. Pietro Calendino wants more enforcement to be done around fireworks retailers contravening the city's sign bylaws.
The pop-up stores, which are only permitted to sell between Oct. 25 and 31, "plaster entire buildings with huge signs," Calendino said at the council meeting, noting he's had complaints from a local business association about the eyesore they create.
Corrigan said people can complain about the signs to city staff who enforce the sign bylaw.
If more enforcement is needed, more staff could be hired for that, but that would be a budget discussion, Corrigan noted.
And for the record, fireworks are only allowed to be set off in Burnaby on Oct. 31 and by people 18 or older on private property, unless a special permit is acquired from city hall.