Cedar Rapids OKs fireworks use around Fourth of July and New Years

City Council votes 5-2 to follow new state law

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Consumer fireworks can fly in Cedar Rapids beginning next Thursday after elected officials declined to heed the advice of public safety officials and continue a ban.

The City Council voted 5-2 during a special meeting on Friday to allow firework use in accordance with the new state law, which establishes windows around Fourth of July and New Years when people can explode the colorful, noisy displays. The law signed on May 9 lifted the ban on fireworks in Iowa with restrictions.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett supported the state model, which was the most lax of three options presented by city staff.

“If people in these early days get completely out of hand, we may have to come in with a special ordinance,” Corbett said.

Use of consumer fireworks — those labeled 1.4G, such as bottlerockets, Roman candles and firecrackers — are now allowed from June 1 through July 8 and between Dec. 10 and Jan. 3 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Use is extended until 11 p.m. on Fourth of July, the weekends immediately before and after July 4, and the weekend before and after Dec. 31. On New Years Eve, fireworks can be used through 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Fireworks can only be used on a person’s property or the property of someone who consents to the use, according to state law.

The city’s Fire Chief Mark English and Fire Marshal Vance B. McKinnon III had urged the City Council to stand pat and let existing public safety and fire codes banning general use of fireworks prevail and some councilors preferred another option limiting use to fewer days around July 4 and Dec. 31. The majority said firework use will be unenforceable with the increased availability, so they favored the least restrictions.

Given the quick turnaround for when the law takes effect, the council passed a resolution to add flexibility to the city ordinances rather than change city code. Staff plans to work on language for a permanent code change. Display fireworks for special events, such as the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival, still will be allowed with permits.

Matt Blake, 43, of Cedar Rapids, said he agreed with the Cedar Rapids City Council decision to follow the state’s lead. He came to the Friday meeting to stay informed locally, but said he is most interested in rules for sales, which are expected to be released by the state fire marshal next week.

Blake said he expects the initial period with fireworks to be “a little noisier than usual,” but it should subside.

“This is going to be a new test,” said Greg Buelow, the city’s public safety spokesman. “We’ll see what good common sense people use.”

He said his office is receiving two to eight calls a day from those interested in selling. Fireworks sales need to be in accordance with local fire, zoning, and transient merchant codes, and a required state permit is the first step in the process, he said. The Cedar Rapids Fire Department also will issue a permit and require a fire inspection authorizing the sale of fireworks in Cedar Rapids, he said.

Sales will be allowed in permanent buildings between June 1 and July 8 and again between Dec. 10 and Jan. 3. Temporary structures sales are allowed from June 13 through July 8. The sale has to meet National Fire Protection Association standard 1124, 2006 edition.

For unincorporated Linn County, current rules will require a permitting process for larger display-level fireworks. Consumer fireworks likely would not require a permit to use.

Any formal changes to the county’s rules for fireworks use would have to take place with the Board of Supervisors.

For those looking to sell fireworks in rural Linn County, Andrew Oien, building official with Linn County Planning and Development, said they will be regulated much like any other retail business with similar zoning and building code requirements.

Retailers looking to store large quantities of such explosives — more than 125 cubic feet — will need to meet more restrictive requirements like fire resistance building materials and sprinkler systems.

So far, Oien said his office has fielded only a handful of calls expressing interest in selling fireworks, with all of them focused on temporary structures at this point.

The Iowa City Council is expected to vote during its next regular meeting, June 6, on an amendment to its current fireworks ordinance.

“Right now in city code we currently prohibit both the sale and the use of fireworks within city limits,” said Simon Andrew, assistant to the city manager. “And so we have to take out the prohibition against the sale just to make it consistent with state law but we will be recommending that council maintain the prohibition against use within the city.”

Cities around the state have had different responses to the new fireworks legislation.

Marion City Council voted to allow consumer fireworks use for a limited number of days during the periods specified by the law, but have not yet set the date restrictions.

Des Moines residents can fire off consumer fireworks for just six hours on the Fourth of July, according to the Des Moines Register. West Des Moines, Urbandale and Ames, have chosen to ban fireworks use, while Cedar Falls has taken a similar approach to Cedar Rapids in following the state’s lead, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Waterloo will allow fireworks use for five days from June 30 to July 4, according to The Courier.

Gazette reporter Madison Arnold contributed to this report.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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