Fireworks Rights on Fourth of July

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Again this year, Newport Beach residents were denied the right to use any fireworks, even the “safe and sane” varieties sold in neighboring cities.

My July 4 column included a discussion on fireworks, including John Adams’ exhortation that Americans celebrate our Independence Day with fireworks.

Various city officials have told me that the city has desired to have a more family-friendly 4th of July, especially on Balboa Peninsula.

Fireworks are part of family fun on the 4th. I started lighting fireworks when I was 9 at 4th of July celebrations. Parents and adults have taught their children this American tradition safely for generations.

The Newport Harbor High School baseball team ignored the city’s Scrooge-like view on fireworks and sold fireworks as a fundraiser on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, just several blocks from the school.

While I followed the anti-fireworks dictates in Newport Beach this July 4th, it was obvious that many people who were in Newport Beach on the 4th believed they had the right to use fireworks and ignored the city’s view that they could prohibit their use.

It seems those celebrants thought globally, and acted locally.

On Monday July 14, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 5-2 to put the legalization of “safe and sane” fireworks on the November ballot.

Newport Beach City Council Candidate Scott Peotter told me “It is distinctly American to use fireworks to celebrate our independence. Therefore it is anti-American to prohibit all fireworks on the 4th of July. However, I would limit the use of fireworks as needed to protect property of those residents in high fire-hazard areas. The beach and ocean won’t catch fire.”

Peotter’s views are reasonable. Use could be restricted on properties adjacent to large brush areas, such as those in Newport Coast or in areas near the Back Bay. However, it’s none of the city’s business if safe and sane fireworks (that can’t fly up in the air) are used responsibly in streets, on the beach or at the ocean’s edge.

I asked City Council Candidate Tim Brown about his views on fireworks in Newport Beach. He said, “No, I do not support residential use of fireworks in Newport Beach for the following reasons. First and foremost, even the “safe and sane” fireworks can harm children if they are left unsupervised by an adult. Second, right now we have extreme drought conditions in the Back Bay creating a fire hazard near homes and neighborhoods. Finally, these devices can create loud disturbances late at night for residents, especially for those who have pets. In Newport Beach, we are fortunate to have a fabulous fireworks display put on by a pyrotechnics company supervised by the Newport Beach Fire Department which is consistent with our efforts to make the 4th of July event in Newport Beach one for families.”

If fireworks can harm children if they are left unsupervised by an adult, so can guns, kitchen knives, the family car, baseball bats, golf clubs, etc. I agree with Brown’s underlying concern that brush not be set on fire near the Back Bay. However, a better way to address that concern is to limit firework use on properties directly adjacent to those areas. Banning fireworks city-wide is an overboard solution.

City Council Candidate Mike Glenn said: “I support safe and sane fireworks for use by adults during selected times per year. Fireworks create a bit of a mess, but the 4th of July already has cleanup needed afterward, and fireworks will not add significant increases to that total. Celebrating the 4th with fireworks is a tradition for most everyone, and having a bit of that tradition in your driveway is a family pastime that has been missed in Newport since 2007.”

Glenn should be open to reasonable restrictions on firework use on properties adjacent to brush areas, and children using them with adult supervision.

People can buy the “safe and sane” fireworks in Costa Mesa and Santa Ana. Rules may reduce but don’t stop them from bringing fireworks into Newport Beach. Since youth groups and charities move their sales area to adjacent cities to sell fireworks as fundraisers, they might raise more money moving those sales booths back to Newport Beach.



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