116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Calls to police about fireworks being set off illegally in the city around the Fourth of July increased by 74 percent this year compared with the same period last year.
The Iowa City Police Department received 236 calls for service related to fireworks complaints from June 1 to July 8, according to a memo from the police chief and fire chief. During the same period last year, the department received 136 calls.
There were nearly 90 calls for service on just the Fourth of July alone, according to city data.
The Iowa City Fire Department received three calls for service related to fireworks incidents this year, compared with one call last year. This year, there was one trash bin fire and a small rubbish fire, Fire Chief Scott Lyon said.
The city also saw more consumer fireworks vendors — four vendors within the city limits compared with zero last year.
City officials anticipated an increase in calls and an influx in tent sales when legislation was signed into law earlier this year stripping local governments of their ability to regulate the zoning districts where fireworks could be sold.
City Manager Geoff Fruin previously told The Gazette the city strongly opposed the legislation. Officials in Marion and Cedar Rapids also voiced their concerns prior to the law being signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“Removing local control of firework sales locations will create additional problems, while at the same time handcuffing our ability to develop reasonable solutions that meet our own community’s expectations,” Fruin said earlier this year.
Less fireworks response due to critical incidents
Despite the increased number of calls, Iowa City police spent considerably less time this year responding to the calls, the memo said. Police spent 18 total hours responding to fireworks calls this year compared with 51 hours last year.
Police Chief Dustin Liston said police were handling critical incidents and were unable to respond to reports of fireworks. During critical incidents, lower priority calls without specific details are considered as information only and not dispatched, Liston said.
“Several critical incidents occurred during this time period, including a shooting and a line of duty death at a neighboring department which diverted resources that would have been dedicated to fireworks response,” the memo said.
Damari Sanders, a 3-year-old boy, was critically injured on July 3 in Coralville after suffering a gunshot wound. Coralville Sgt. John Williams, one of the officers responding to the call, later died from an acute medical emergency.
A total of 128 fireworks calls — just over half — were carried as information and not dispatched because there wasn’t information about specific location or origin of the fireworks.
“The Police Department has worked with the Joint Emergency Communication Center to ensure more detailed information is obtained and those calls get dispatched in the future,” the memo said.
There were nine warnings given and no citations issued this July 4 period in Iowa City.
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.
Illegally setting off fireworks in Iowa City is a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $250, according to city code. In Cedar Rapids, violators face up to a $625 fine.
Increase in fireworks tents
There were four consumer firework retailers operating in city limits this year. Iowa City previously allowed consumer firework sales to be sold in industrial zones only before the law changed. Two vendors were lacking information but set up anyway, the city said.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the four vendors were:
- Bellino Fireworks, 1720 Waterfront Dr.
- Iowa Fireworks Company, 1015 IA-1
- Jakes Fireworks, 919 Highway 1 W
- Tiger Tooth Fireworks, 2605 Naples Ave SW
Cedar Rapids also saw an increase in fireworks tents. There were 10 sites selling fireworks compared with one last year. Three of the sites this year did not have a city permit. The Gazette reported last week the city is working with legal services regarding Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa’s failure to obtain the city permits.
Comments: (319) 339-3155; firstname.lastname@example.org