Out with a whimper, not a bang: Council restricts fireworks to 6 days a year

By Kirk Winter

“Nuisance fireworks are creating a quality of life and a noise problem in the City of Kawartha Lakes."

Kawartha Lakes City Council unanimously received a vote that would restrict the use of fireworks to just six days a year. The new bylaw will take effect on September 15 should council formally adopt the received bylaw then.

At the committee of the whole meeting, Kawartha Lakes Fire Chief Mark Pankhurst asked council to consider restricting the use of fireworks to a handful of days in the summer season and to implement an outright ban on backyard campfires in Lindsay proper.

“There have been numerous complaints received from residents regarding the setting off of fireworks in the City of Kawartha Lakes and open air burning in the geographical area of Lindsay,” Pankhurst shared.

“Nuisance fireworks are creating a quality of life and a noise problem in the City of Kawartha Lakes. Complaints have been received regarding excessive noise, scared or lost pets, and disturbing the sleep of adults and children,” the chief added.

“Restricting the times for discharging and selling of fireworks will help to ensure that fireworks are only used during specific celebration times. The recommendations for fireworks would not apply to professional fireworks displays as these go through a permitting process,” Pankhurst said.

Council decided to deal with the chief’s recommendations separately and a robust conversation developed on both issues.

Mayor Andy Letham spoke strongly in favour of the proposed fireworks restriction.

“The use of fireworks now is ridiculous. It is not fair to the people who have to deal with them everyday once the weather gets hot.”

The proposed bylaw would restrict the use of fireworks to the period from dusk until 11 pm on six days only: the day before Victoria Day, Victoria Day and the day after Victoria Day, the day before Canada Day, Canada Day, and the day after Canada Day.  Fireworks would be banned any other time in Kawartha Lakes.

Initially the by-law also proposed that retailers would only be able to sell fireworks for the week before each long weekend and at no other time during the year.

While there was general agreement on the chief’s proposal councillors Pat O’Reilly, Doug Elmslie, Pat Dunn, Andrew Veale and Tracy Richardson asked that a clause be inserted that allows for special occasions permits for the use of fireworks at weddings and family gatherings.

These same councillors also argued that the restriction of the sale of fireworks by retailers to a single week before each long weekend was unfair to small stores and would be very hard to monitor.

Letham felt these changes made sense saying that the real issue “was controlling when they can be set off with a permitting process in place for special occasions.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore added that he didn’t want the process of purchasing fireworks to resemble what is now required to buy ammunition.

Burning ban in Lindsay up in smoke

Council’s attention then turned to the issue of open air burning in Lindsay.

Pankhurst began the conversation by saying many complaints and calls to 911 for burn complaints in Lindsay have happened.

“In the current bylaw the only type of burning that is allowed in a built up area is campfire burning (open air burning equal to or less than two feet in diameter) as long as the property owner is able to meet the minimum setbacks of 15 metres from any building or structure and 5 metres from fences, trees, brush piles, property lines, water shorelines or combustible materials,” Pankhurst continued.

“The recommendation would prohibit all types of open air burning in the geographical area of Lindsay. These recommendations would require support and enforcement from the Municipal Law Enforcement team,” Pankhurst concluded.

Elmslie wanted more specifics asking the chief if propane fire pits and store bought chimenias would be targeted by this by-law?

The chief shared that propane firepits were not at issue but chimenias because of their capacity to produce smoke would be.

Councillor O’Reilly, one of the officials responsible for a Lindsay ward, asked why the by-law would target only Lindsay?

“Smoke in built up areas is a real problem,” Pankhurst replied, “and a real irritant to seniors.”

Pankhurst said the fire department is getting “more and more” of these calls and something needs to be done.

Dunn, Lindsay’s other councillor, said he wasn’t getting calls on this issue.

“Why can’t we have a Saturday night camp fire?”

It was clear that rural councillors had no stomach for this burn ban in Lindsay after hearing that the town’s two councillors were skeptical at best regarding its seriousness.

An outdoor burn ban for Lindsay was dropped and not brought to vote by council as a whole.

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