Happy 4th of July – BOOM!

fireworksI had an interesting conversation with a local resident today regarding fireworks.  He was a reasonable person who expected that some folks would be setting off fireworks to celebrate our country’s birthday.  He was talking to me however, because he was highly frustrated about someone in his neighborhood setting off fireworks morning, noon and in the middle of the night.  He described the fireworks as sounding like a stick of dynamite going off lighting up his yard.  He has called us repeatedly and wants us to do something.  Maybe a complete ban previously was a problem but now the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction when everything is permitted and local communities have little ability to modify to suit their citizens.

When the Michigan Legislature passed the new laws in 2012 allowing a greatly expanded use of fireworks I think they thought people would generally be happy and it would generate significant tax dollars to help the state.  I don’t think either turned out to be completely true. Michigan raised approximately $3M in tax dollars with the first million earmarked for firefighter training.  (It had been predicted to raise about $8M.)  While most residents are ok with the fireworks that were previously used in Michigan like Roman candles and small firecrackers, the very large airborne ones used at any time of day or night don’t seem to be that popular.  The law did not allow local communities to take any action except limit the number of days to the federal holidays and the day before and day after.  Because we were prohibited from taking action we stopped responding to all but the most egregious complaints although there wasn’t much we could do in any case.

The Legislature has now acted to allow local communities to do some modifications of times of day as well as the days per year (still permitted by state law on all of the federal holidays and the day before and day after).  However they didn’t do it in time to make the 4th of July in case anyone was hoping.  To pass an ordinance our Council must set it on their agenda for discussion and approve it for a 1st and 2nd reading which includes a public hearing.  Even if our council decides they do want to limit fireworks the earliest they could is the early part of August since they only meet 2 times per month on the first and third Mondays.

Enrolled House Bill No. 4743 was approved by the Governor, filed by the Secretary of State and took immediate effect on June 19, 2013. The Bill amends 2011 Public Act No. 256, the “Michigan Fireworks Safety Act”. The important amendments included in the new law are as follows:

  • The bill would require retail locations to post signs informing the public where to find the Fireworks Safety Act and copies of the local ordinances regarding time limits and the use of the fireworks.
  • The law specifically provides that local municipalities may pass ordinances regulating the ignition, discharge, and use of consumer fireworks so long as the ordinance prescribes the hours of day or night during which a person may ignite, discharge, or use consumer fireworks.
  • If a local government passes a regulating ordinance in a municipality with a population of 50,000 or more or a local unit of government located in a county with a population of 750,000 or more, the ordinance can regulate the ignition, discharge, or use of consumer fireworks between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on all national holidays including the day before and the day after the holiday except for New Years Day where they can regulate the hours of 1:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
  • Regulations for municipalities with a population of less than 50,000 located in a county with a population of less than 750,000 may regulate the ignition, discharge, or use of consumer fireworks between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on all national holidays, including the day before and the day after the holiday.
  • Local municipalities can continue to regulate, including prohibit, the use of consumer fireworks on all days that are not national holidays, the day before or the day after national holidays.
  • 100% of the money received from fireworks safety fees shall be used for the training of fire fighters.
  • 100% of the money received from consumer fireworks safety certificates shall be used to pay the cost of delegating inspections under this Act to local units of government.
  • The new law also continues to prevent the sale of fireworks to minors and prohibits the use of fireworks by an individual who is “under the influence” of alcohol and/or a controlled substance.

I don’t know if our council will decide to modify the hours of use.  I do know that even if they do, we will be challenged to find any persons who violate the law to cite them.

We continue to hope that everyone will be courteous to their neighbors and considerate of homes where there are small children trying to sleep and dogs who get sick at loud noises and for those of us who have to work in the morning.  And if you choose to use fireworks be sure to use them safety.

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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.