Business

Fireworks licensing may take days to weeks

State Fire Marshal's Office should have application online Wednesday

Joe Zalesky has begun preparing to open a fireworks store in Marion, shown on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Zalesky had been moving consumer-grade fireworks in to the building on Wednesday when he said the state fire marshal, Marion Fire and Marion PD told him he had to remove the fireworks. License applications are not yet available but a new law allows sales of fireworks beginning June 1 by licensed retailers from permanent structures. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Joe Zalesky has begun preparing to open a fireworks store in Marion, shown on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Zalesky had been moving consumer-grade fireworks in to the building on Wednesday when he said the state fire marshal, Marion Fire and Marion PD told him he had to remove the fireworks. License applications are not yet available but a new law allows sales of fireworks beginning June 1 by licensed retailers from permanent structures. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

It’s unlikely anyone will be selling fireworks in Iowa by Thursday — the first day it’s legal under a new law — because the multistep licensing process still is being rolled out by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

“It’s not an overnight process,” said Jeannie Guttenfelder, a secretary at the State Fire Marshal’s Office who is coordinating the online licensing process. “It’s going to take several days at least. We’ll do the permanent sites first because they are technically supposed to be able to open June 1.”

While fireworks vendors may be impatient, the bill lifting an 80-year ban of fireworks sales in Iowa was just signed May 9. The Fire Marshal’s Office staff had been working on online forms before passage of the bill, but couldn’t complete the process until the final version was inked, Guttenfelder said.

“We want to make sure everyone is safe so those steps are necessary,” she said.

So far, about 70 retailers have created online user accounts and submitted forms to sell fireworks at about 150 sites across the state, Guttenfelder said. While most vendors have turned in forms for just one or two sites, about a dozen vendors want at least five sites. Iowa Fireworks Co. and Ka-Boomers 1/2 Price Fireworks each has more than 10 sites it wants to license, she said.

The next step for vendors is a license application. Those forms for retailers and wholesalers are expected to be online Wednesday, Guttenfelder said. Everyone with a user account will get notification when the licensing forms are live, she added.

A license application must include a site plan and proof of liability insurance and vendors must complete separate forms for each site they want to operate, she said.

“Until we see the site plans come in, we won’t know whether there are issues,” Guttenfelder said. “That will be the most time-consuming piece.”

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Once the State Fire Marshal’s Office approves the site plans, staff will give the go-ahead for vendors to schedule inspections by a member of the office or an approved local fire official. The Fire Marshal’s Office will have an online map showing approved inspectors, Guttenfelder said.

“We’re still working on the finalized map,” she said Tuesday.

Once the site passes inspection and those forms are submitted online to the Fire Marshal’s Office, office staff will send a license certificate via email. Vendors may need additional city permits.

Senate File 489 legalized the possession, sale and use of consumer-grade fireworks around two holiday seasons. Licensed retailers and community groups may sell fireworks from permanent structures from June 1 to July 8 and Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Sales from temporary structures, such as tents, are allowed from June 13 to July 8.

Cities and counties may opt out of allowing the use of fireworks, but not the sale.

Guttenfelder said the Fire Marshal’s Office has heard from some vendors who are frustrated by the licensing delay.

A Marion vendor was told to hit the brakes last week when he started to move fireworks into a former strip club without having the necessary license and permit. Joe Zalesky, who has sold fireworks from a tent in Missouri for several years, told The Gazette he was awaiting rules for Iowa’s licensing process.

“We really want to have it ready to go,” Guttenfelder said. “But we also want to have it as complete as possible. Everything should run pretty smoothly once we flip the switch.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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