Terrace council is one meeting away from further restricting the use of fireworks to one day per year, even though enforcing that rule would be difficult.
On Sept. 27, council gave first, second and third readings to a bylaw amendment that limits the use of fireworks to Oct. 31 only, and can adopt the amendments at its next meeting.
Council also plans to significantly increase the fine for contravening the bylaw in the future, and amend the bylaw further in 2022 to shorten the timeframe allowed to sell fireworks to just Oct. 29 to 31.
Council started the process of making changes to its fireworks policy after a Nov. 2020 presentation from Monique Gagne, who said she had to sedate her dogs for the days surrounding Halloween, the period that fireworks are allowed in the city.
Gagne said fireworks scare pets, livestock and wildlife, interrupt people’s ability to rest at night, and pollute the environment.
“Every year we hear these terrible stories, and its really not just inconvenient but heartbreaking,” Coun. Lynne Christiansen said at the Sept. 27, 2021 council meeting, adding that the fine for offenders should be increased to $1,000 from $100.
In 2020, Terrace RCMP received four fireworks complaints and the bylaw department received three complaints and issued one ticket.
Currently, adults are allowed to purchase and use fireworks between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1 each year. They must be set off from private property with property owner’s written permission, and they are subject the city’s noise bylaw. People can apply to use fireworks at other times of the year, but Fire Chief John Klie said that few applications are accepted.
“We have a very strict permitting process right now, if anyone wants to set off fireworks they have to apply to myself with a letter to council asking permission,” he said at the council meeting.
“This happens typically during Riverboat Days which everyone is familiar, once and a while there are a couple religious holidays that we allow, but almost any other request to set off fireworks within the city boundaries, we deny.”
Despite the tougher new rules, both Klie and council acknowledged that enforcement is, and will, continue to be a challenge.
The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine does not have rules for fireworks, so they can be legally sold and used outside of Terrace city limits year-round, like in Thornhill. Ticketing offenders is not easy, because it is difficult to prove someone used a firework inappropriately unless a bylaw officer witnessed it.
Klie said that in the opinion of the fire department, the best way to enforce the bylaw is through educating people and reminding citizens that complaints need to be made at the time fireworks are being used, so either bylaw or RCMP officers can attend and catch the offenders in the act and subsequently fine them.
While enforcing the bylaw is the responsibility of bylaw and RCMP officers, Terrace RCMP S/Sgt. Michael Robinson told Klie in a March 2o21 email that police would likely be selective in what sort of firework use it would be interested in.
“We would see ourselves enforcing those situations where mischievous/dangerous or criminal behaviour is happening or likely to happen, so for instance we would like to seize fireworks from intoxicated youths or subjects shooting fireworks at vehicles,” he said in the email.
“But we would not be interested in backyard family use or public park use where social groups are gathering to enjoy fireworks for whatever the celebration, we would refer that to fire or bylaw depending on the situation.”
Fireworks are banned at all times in Smithers and Prince Rupert. Kitimat allows their sale and use between Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, June 22 to July 2, and Dec. 24 to 31.
—With files from Jake Wray