Public Safety

Cedar Rapids, Iowa City police toughen stance on fireworks violations

Robins man issued citation after losing parts of fingers to firework explosion

A selection of fireworks is seen at JP Fireworks, 895 7th Avenue, in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, June 7, 2018. The store opened June 1.  (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A selection of fireworks is seen at JP Fireworks, 895 7th Avenue, in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, June 7, 2018. The store opened June 1. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids police arrested a man Thursday for using fireworks within city limits — days after a firecracker detonated in his hand and blew off parts of several fingers.

The injuries suffered by Isaac Hassan, 19, required surgery, according a police report, and he is facing a simple misdemeanor charge.

Hassan was holding the firecracker out of the back window of a garage when it exploded, authorities said.

“This was a preventable injury because the individual was engaged in an activity that was illegal,” Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said. “Our officers issued the citation because it was unlawful, and the courts can decide what appropriate judgment should apply.”

The use of fireworks is prohibited in Cedar Rapids, but laws on fireworks use in Iowa vary depending on city ordinances.

Here is a sampling of city rules on the use of fireworks:

l Cedar Rapids: Use prohibited

l Ely: Use limited to 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., June 25 to July 8; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 4

l Springville: Use limited to 4 to 11 p.m., July 4

l Marion: Use limited to noon to 11 p.m., July 4

l Iowa City: Use prohibited

l Coralville: Use prohibited

l North Liberty: Use prohibited

Authorities from the Cedar Rapids Police Department and Iowa City Police Department — where the public is always prohibited from using fireworks — said they are taking strict enforcement positions this year.

Hassan’s citation was the second of the year, Buelow said, which carries a fine of up to $625.

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In Iowa City — where one citation has been issued so far this year, on June 11 — penalties for using fireworks range from a $250 to $650 fine.

Iowa City Police Sgt. Derek Frank said the department plans to take “a strict enforcement position on fireworks violations” this summer, after receiving 521 fireworks complaints last year and issuing only three citations.

“We tried to take an educational approach last year, since the law was new,” he said. “ ... That education didn’t seem to work, as you can see by those numbers.”

It’s easy to lose track of each municipality’s fireworks ordinance, said Maj. Chad Colston of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, with cities and towns adopting their own ordinances.

“We haven’t done a cheat sheet that has all the changes,” Colston said. “Several cities have enacted something, and it’s constantly changing.”

Going into the second summer since the Iowa Legislature legalized consumer fireworks, Colston said he is hopeful their use will drop.

In his jurisdiction, fireworks use “hasn’t really started yet,” he said. “Obviously, I think last year, with it being brand-new, a lot of people went a little overboard. Now they’ve kind of settled down.”

While using fireworks in his jurisdiction is illegal, Frank and other public safety officials said they hope citizens will be careful and use common sense.

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“Some people are going to light off fireworks, so try to be respectful of your neighbors,” Frank said. “That’s what I think about when I’m lying in bed at night. Like, really? Come on.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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