116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A new Iowa law telling cities they can’t restrict the sale of consumer fireworks to only certain parts of town is leading to an uptick in sales tents in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids — and concerns among local officials that buyers may mistakenly think it’s legal in those cities to launch the fireworks they purchase there.
Three state licensed firework tents are operating in Iowa City, up from zero tents last year. Two tents are operating in Cedar Rapids, up from one last year. In Marion, where it is legal to set off fireworks for several hours only on July 4, the number of sales tents nearly doubled from five to nine.
Even so, the State Fire Marshal’s Office granted 574 fireworks sales licenses this year across Iowa, slightly down from 583 in 2021.
The new law, Senate File 2285, bans city governments from regulating the sale of fireworks to only industrial zones, like Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and some other communities had. But the law still allows cities to regulate when consumers can set off the fireworks — or even ban them.
The Iowa Fireworks Company this holiday pitched its newest fireworks tent on one of Cedar Rapids’ busiest roads on Williams Boulevard SW, and has already seen consistent sales.
The fireworks vendor saw an increase in sales last year, prompting the opening its third location in the city at 2455 Williams Blvd. SW.
“We’ve seen quite a few customers between the three locations,” said its vendor, Bobby Estabrook.
Sales ‘expected to pick up’
Bobby Sero, the Cedar Rapids manager at the Iowa Fireworks Company in his fifth season selling at 401 Bowling St., said revenue has been steady since the site opened June 13.
“Sales statewide have been slower, but I think its because of the heat,” Sero said. “It’ll be expected to pick up probably this weekend.”
Sero said he thinks the new law gives customers better access to consumer fireworks without having to travel outside of city limits.
“Some people might not have known we were around here, so being able to have that inside the city will help,” he said.
This year, he said, customers are buying a larger quantity of fireworks per sale. “It’s a wide selection. A lot of kids’ stuff to the bigger stuff. A lot of people are having parties at friends houses,” he said.
Fireworks laws and fines
With the new law, officials in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Marion are expecting more injuries and reports of illegal fireworks.
In Cedar Rapids, setting off consumer fireworks in the city limits is illegal and violators face up to a $625 fine. Cedar Rapids fire marshal Vance McKinnon III said residents can still light snakes, sparklers and caps within the city limits.
“I don’t think people really understand consumer grade fireworks and the punch that they can pack, so to speak,” McKinnon said. “They figure since they can buy them here, they can set them off here.”
Brian Greer, the Iowa City fire marshal, said he expects that the call volume to the Iowa City Police Department will go up over the holiday. The illegal use of fireworks inside Iowa City and Coralville is a $250 minimum fine.
“We are not upping our staffing for that, but the police department is with the anticipation of more calls,” Greer said.
He said his office is “always worried about the safety of fireworks and the people around … after people, we are concerned about structures, building, houses, garages.”
After the Iowa Legislature legalized the sale of consumer-grade fireworks in May 2017, after an almost 80-year hiatus, fireworks-related injuries more than doubled, according to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics data.
In Marion, consumer fireworks can be used on July 4 from noon to 11 p.m. on the user’s property or with permission on someone else’s property. The fines for using fireworks during undesignated times is $750 for the first infraction in Marion.
“Our biggest concern when you set up in commercial areas is it’s a more populous area,” said Wade Markley, Marion district chief and fire marshal. “These sites have these storage containers, so the product is stored in a confined space, so if it ignites, you have potential for injury and damage for property.”
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