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Fireworks over fireworks: Fire chief clears the air on issue

There has been a lot of online chatter about frequency of fireworks; City's bylaw is very detailed and restricted, fire chief says

This past Sunday, the floating dock in front of the Barrie Rowing Club (BRC) and the Barrie Canoe and Kayak Club (BCKC) was damaged when someone stuck fireworks in the grooves before setting them off.

As unfortunate as it was for the club, the letter to the editor about the incident said that perhaps “the fireworks could have easily and safely been set off on land just 4-5 metres away. Any damaged grass would have grown back within a week.”

While that would have likely prevented any damage to the dock, that is against regulations. 

Barrie Fire Chief Cory Mainprize told BarrieToday that moving a few feet away from the floating dock would have been a violation because that would have put the fireworks on city property, which is not allowed. 

“The bylaw states you can only set off fireworks from your own private property or property you’ve been given permission by that owner to do so,” said Mainprize. “If you’re entering city property, you would not have been given permission to do so.”

Mainprize reminds people that city property includes all roads, parks and many local open spaces

“It's not likely you're going to try to set them off on the highway, but you never know and it is best that I’m clear about it,” said Mainprize.

This past Canada Day had many people igniting fireworks in their yards, and while that is allowed, there are many guidelines to follow.

“You must be eight metres, approximately 25 feet, from any structures and/or vehicles. That includes homes, sheds and fences,” said Mainprize. “To comply with this, you pretty much need a 50 by 50 space, clear of structures, vehicles and city property that also has to have a clear trajectory vertically." 

The chief admits that having that kind of space on personal property in Barrie is not common and speculated that “the majority of homes and subdivisions would not meet those requirements.”

Over the last few days after Canada Day, many Facebook community groups have seen heated debates about when fireworks can be set off. 

“Not really known by people is the fact that you can’t shoot fireworks off the day after the holiday. Canada Day, New Year's Day, Chinese New Year and Victoria Day are the only days you can use fireworks and the bylaw states they can be set off the day of and/or five days prior,” said Mainprize. “That means if people were setting off on July 2, they were in violation.”

Being in violation is one thing, but getting caught in violation is another and Mainprize said there are very few calls despite the online complaints.

“We don’t proactively patrol for firework usage. To apply a ticket that would stand up, you would need to catch someone in the act and know who was responsible for actually doing it,” said Mainprize. “It is difficult to have an officer, whether police, fire or municipal law enforcement, respond to the area to catch people in the act.”

Mainprize wants people to follow the rules of your municipality, but also those of the manufacturer of the fireworks. 

“If you read the notes from the manufacturer on the items, they will often exceed the minimum setbacks required by the bylaw,” said Mainprize. “That will ensure you are safely using what can be a very dangerous and flammable item.”

Although fireworks can be dangerous when used incorrectly, Mainprize doesn’t recall any major incidents involving them, although some people do get a little reckless sometimes. 

“We don’t get that many calls, maybe the odd one over the years, but it really isn’t a common occurrence and I can’t recall a fire caused by fireworks in the city,” said Mainprize.

“The majority of the calls we’ve received are those where people have observed unsafe actions while others were handling fireworks. Essentially, people need to stop shooting Roman Candles at each other or at things," he said.

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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