Birmingham Bans Fireworks Except on National Holidays
Mayor says enforcing laws is time-consuming for local police while a city commissioner predicts more accidents in light of a newly relaxed Michigan law.
If you're planning on setting off some fireworks at your backyard barbecues this summer, think again.
Monday night, the Birmingham City Commission amended its fireworks ordinance, effectively banning the ignition, discharge and use of consumer fireworks except for the day of, before and after a national holiday.
The move comes after the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act went into effect at the beginning of the year, repealing former sections of the Michigan Penal Code regarding fireworks and setting new regulations for their purchase, sale and use.
According to Birmingham Fire Chief Mike Metz, the act prohibits local governments from regulating the sale, display, storage, transportation or distribution of fireworks.
What local governments can do, however, is regulate the ignition, discharge and use of consumer-grade fireworks, which include firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles.
And that's just what Birmingham is doing. According to the ordinance passed Monday night, it is now illegal to discharge consumer-grade fireworks in Birmingham except on national holidays and the days before and after.
These holidays include New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those caught violating the ordinance will be charged with a $500 fine.
According to Metz, the new ordinance also prohibits the possession of consumer fireworks by a minor not accompanied by an adult. The ordinance also prohibits the use of consumer and low-impact fireworks (such as sparklers or smoke devices) by a person under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Mayor Mark Nickita said he rode along with a Birmingham police officer last Friday night, noting they spent quite a bit of time tracking down folks shooting off fireworks. The amount of complaints dispatch received that night, he said, was considerable.
"It's a costly thing for us (to enforce fireworks ordinances)," Nickita said. "As a municipality, we're spending our time doing this when we could, of course, be doing more important things."
City Manager Bob Bruner said representatives from the Michigan Municipal League and the state's fire service have been fighting the new law for months now, pushing for more local control. Bruner said he sees the issue more as a potential nuisance problem.
"It's now legal to shoot off bigger fireworks in an urban area like Birmingham," he said. "I encourage residents to be smart. Don't shoot off fireworks on days it's not allowed. And if you do, do it at a time that reasonable," noting residents can still receive a nuisance violation if they shoot off fireworks at odd hours.
City Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said allowing people to set off their own fireworks is also a safety problem.
"In addition to being a nuisance, I think it's a great danger," she said. "I think we're going to see a lot more incidents of people getting hurt."
Resident Dorothy Conrad said the state law is disappointing and a "terrible thing" for local government.
"This is marvelous example of the state enacting something without a thorough discussion among the local units of governments who are going to be charged with enforcing all of this," she said.