Despite protest, council bans sale and use of fireworks within city limits
Similar to the Aug. 20 meeting where the council first introduced the ordinance, fire experts from around the county showed up to debate on one side of the issue while people representing various churches and charity organizations were on the other side.
Both sides gave their new perspectives and discussed issues, but the end result was the same as the Aug. 20 meeting, with four councilmembers voicing their approval of the ban and one voicing his disapproval.
Susanville Mayor Kurt Bonham said after the public hearing that the council would revisit the ban on a yearly basis. He said he wanted Susanville Police Department Chief Jeff Atkinson and fire Department Chief Stu Ratner to have reports ready each year to assess whether or not the ban should be in place, depending on weather and fire conditions.
While councilmembers agreed with the law enforcement and fire agencies, councilmember Doug Sayers sided with the charity organizations. He said the community would suffer because of the ban and that the ban was more of a result of living in fear than anything else.
Atkinson said he was in full support of Ratner’s position on banning fireworks. Ratner himself was apologetic because he said he understands how the ban would affect organizations that have depended on the income from fireworks sales for years.
“I know it feels personal,” Ratner told the audience after the public hearing. “I’m looking at all of your faces and I’m telling you directly that I’m sorry that I’m the one who had to come forward with this. I hope you recognize that I do believe in the safety of the public. We have had problems.”
Ratner provided statistics on the activities in the city on the Fourth of July, saying there were only four citations issued that day, with no fires and no medical calls related to fireworks.
“I can tell you this,” Ratner said. “We did confiscate a lot of fireworks, both Safe and Sane and illegal. There’s lots of analysis on fireworks around the country, and judging from the injuries that have occurred, I don’t want to see any of my firefighters injured.”
Ratner also said there have been incidents in years past, including a fire started on the roof of one of the businesses at the Lassen Shopping Center from fireworks.
Brad Lutz, Lassen County fire warden and fire chief for the Lassen-Modoc Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection addressed concerns from audience members who said the ban would increase the use of illegal fireworks. He said it might actually make it easier for law enforcement officials to track down people using fireworks because they will not only be able to commit more resources, but the public will be more aware of where fireworks are being set off.
“This ordinance was introduced in the name of public safety, and that’s it,” Lutz said. “While many people are making the argument that these fires are started by a few bad apples, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Some of these fires are caused by ordinary people that might be a little careless or have underestimated the situation.”
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