City council discusses citywide ban of fireworks
Both chiefs explained how the fireworks in the city were nearing the point where they felt their respective departments couldn’t maintain control within the city limits.
After the joint report from the chiefs, the city council directed City Administrator Rob Hill to come up with a resolution for the Aug. 20 meeting to institute a total ban of fireworks in the city limits. A public hearing will also be held at the meeting.
“Unfortunately, we responded to numerous calls on July 4,” Ratner said. “A majority of these calls were people lighting illegal fireworks all over the city and the county.”
Ratner said a combination of forces from the SPD, Lassen County Sheriff’s Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Susan River Fire District and the SFD were available to respond to calls in and around the city. He said as of the July 16 meeting, many of those agencies were still responding to fireworks related incidents.
“We were hoping we would have cooperation from some people, which we didn’t,” Ratner said. “They created quite a havoc for quite some time.”
“Some of the other problems included people using Safe and Sane fireworks in a manner that they were not intended to be used. Throwing them out of vehicles, combining them and burning lots of them together, using fireworks too close to buildings and vegetation, things of that nature.”
Ratner went on to say that while not every citizen in Susanville was acting this way, some were.
“Even with the smoke in the air and the way that things were, you would think that they would have a clue that we have an extreme (fire) problem going on,” Ratner said.
He also said the respective agencies had an issue with the cleanup problems associated with the celebration. Ratner said even the people who were using the fireworks correctly often simply left them after using them. He again reiterated that it wasn’t everyone in the city doing this, as he observed people going out and sweeping up debris on July 5.
“Overall, I believe it’s come to a time where we have to ask ourselves, in a small rural community, with these extreme fire conditions, if we need to ban fireworks in the city,” Ratner said. “As the county did per their ordinance 530-B. I understand this will make it tough for some charitable groups and churches because they rely on this money. I believe that someone’s really going to get hurt, and we’re going to have a major fire, if we don’t think of which way we might go.”
Atkinson said cooperation between the police and fire departments had a fire captain patrolling with an officer in an unmarked vehicle. The police responded to 16 fireworks-related calls from Monday, June 30, to Monday, July 7. Atkinson said the department issued three citations or arrests (He explained a citation technically is an arrest) related to fireworks during the weeklong period.
Atkinson also spoke out against allowing everyone to light fireworks in the Wal-Mart parking lot on the Fourth of July.
“It’s not even a small parking lot, but everybody wants to go there,” Atkinson said. “I think it’s inherently dangerous in and of itself when you put that many people together with fireworks.”
Councilmember Doug Sayers explained he was in agreement with Bonham, adding that anyone causing problems with fireworks should be hit with heavy fines, and possible jail time in the future.
Bonham said the Fourth of July is something that should always be respected, but he felt that it’s gotten to the point where too many people are not respecting it.
District 2 Supervisor told the council he felt it was already creating an interesting dynamic with the city’s current stance on fireworks, compared to Lassen County’s no fireworks stance. He also suggested to the council that if it was going to move forward with a fireworks’ ban, now is the time of year to deal, while the issue is still fresh in people’s minds, the smoke from the wildfires is still lingering in the air, and it gives the organization that uses fireworks as a fundraising tool a chance to get their affairs in order.
The next city council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30, but the council directed Hill to have a resolution ready and a public hearing about the ban for Wednesday, Aug. 20.
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