116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids saw more fireworks vendors this year after a new state law barred cities from restricting consumer fireworks sales to only certain parts of town, leaving some city officials frustrated and looking for ways to alleviate the burden fireworks pose for public safety personnel.
Last year, one licensed fireworks tent operated in Cedar Rapids. This year, 10 sites sold fireworks -- all of them with state permits but only seven of them with city permits.
City Council member Dale Todd, who chairs the council’s Public Safety and Youth Services Committee, said at a meeting this week the Iowa Legislature did cities “no favors” with the new law.
“When you look at businesses that set up pop-up tents and sell these things, they have no respect for our community when they do that,” Todd said.
The state law does allow municipalities to regulate whether it’s legal to set off consumer fireworks in city limits. In Cedar Rapids, setting off consumer fireworks is illegal and violators face up to a $625 fine.
Cedar Rapids police had 628 calls about fireworks in June and July, a decline from the previous two years. The city issued 12 citations for illegal fireworks use this year.
Officials say there is no conclusive reason for the decline in calls for service, but the drop comes as municipal fireworks shows resumed after being canceled during the pandemic.
No fires were confirmed as being caused by fireworks this year, though fireworks may have contributed to several residential and small dumpster fires
Public safety personnel worked 48 hours of overtime responding to fireworks calls, according to the city.
Todd questioned the thought behind one “big box store” that had several locations with fireworks tents offering a buy-one, get-two-free deal.
“Send them the bill for the overtime that the taxpayers have to incur because of their pursuit of the almighty dollar at the cost to all the other people in the community that they supposedly care about,” Todd said.
Todd said the noise from fireworks can be especially disruptive to people with special needs, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pets. He said he wishes municipalities could deputize citizens to write tickets to those who illegally set off fireworks within city limits.
Council member Ashley Vanorny said the city’s hands have been tied by the state on the fireworks matter.
“It's hard for me to reconcile this holiday because, honestly, there's a lot of people who claim that they're celebrating in this way — that's illegal — in the name of freedom and in the name of our troops who they're activating their PTSD,” Vanorny said.
“ … They're saying, ‘Love your professions of (fire) and (police),’ yet they're making it very hard for you guys to actually get to the emergency calls.”
List of vendors
The city- and state-licensed fireworks vendors in Cedar Rapids this year were:
- Bellino Fireworks, 4035 Mount Vernon Rd. SE (tent by Hy-Vee)
- Bellino Fireworks, 4220 16th Ave. SW (tent by Fareway)
- Bellino Fireworks, 1843 Johnson Ave. NW (tent by Hy-Vee)
- Iowa Fireworks, 4401 Bowling St. SW (tent)
- Iowa Fireworks, 2455 Williams Blvd. SW (tent)
- Tiger Tooth Fireworks, 2800 Wiley Blvd. SW (container by Menards.)
- TNT Fireworks, 2605 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE (container by Sam’s Club.)
The state listed permits for 14 vendors in Cedar Rapids — seven of which are not on the city’s list.
Fire Chief Greg Smith said the state’s list had two vendors outside the city limits, and fireworks sold at two of the locations were novelty items and under the quantity requiring a separate city permit.
The other three were operated by Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa, which had a state permit but not a city temporary structure permit.
Smith said this week the city is working with legal services regarding Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa’s failure to obtain the city permit.
In a statement, Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa said it applied for a temporary structure permit from the city for its three locations “with ample time.” According to the company, the city neither approved nor denied this permit.
The company argued Cedar Rapids tried to impose standards for a temporary structure from the International Fire Code, which the company said is “significantly different” from the National Fire Protection Association’s fireworks policy, Standard 1124, as required by the state Legislature and state fire marshal.
“The state has set rules that everyone needs to follow,” the company’s statement said. “Cedar Rapids tried to enforce a different set of rules.”
This company is separate from the Windsor, Wis.-based Cornellier Fireworks, which did not have a tent in Cedar Rapids.
Smith said Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa did not receive a city permit because it was looking to display more than 500 pounds of product in a tent area.
He said the company could have an unlimited amount in another secure trailer or Conex box, but to keep the community safe from accidents, 500 pounds is the cap for items shown in a display area.
“We are in no way, shape or form limiting their sale of fireworks,” Smith said. “ … We feel that we were well within our obligation within the city limits as fire marshal and fire chief to limit the display within the tents because we are not limiting the sale within any form.”
Other vendors in the past have submitted a pre-plan showing their plans to stay within the 500-pound limit of displayed consumer-grade fireworks, Smith said.
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