Like most Americans, Loveland residents celebrate the Fourth of July with picnics, parties and sometimes, illegal fireworks.
Illegal fireworks such as bottle rockets, cherry bombs, morters, M-80’s and Roman candles, send pets running for cover and exasperate neighbors. They can also
cause serious eye injuries, severe burns to hands and faces, and worse. They can be profoundly disturbing for veterans or anyone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and on top of that, pose additional fire danger in our already arid landscape.
Despite the many dangers associated with illegal fireworks, every year, the City’s Emergency Communications Center lights up with calls from residents, reporting that ‘someone’ is setting them off and pleading with dispatchers to make the noise and aggravation stop. And every year, the calls increase. On July
4, 2014 dispatch received a total of 299 fireworks complaints. Last year that number was 410 – a 37 percent increase.
According to Assistant Police Chief Tim Brown, the problem is challenging. First, even with every police officer on the streets, those hundreds of fireworks complaints are coming in on top of regular calls for disturbances, car accidents, drunk drivers and various other ‘normal’ calls. Second, more often than not,
even when an officer arrives on scene, those who made the calls are unwilling to identify the people shooting off the fireworks, even when they know who it was. Often, when an officer arrives, there is no one actively shooting fireworks so there is nothing in progress for the officer to observe. “That leaves us with limited recourse,” said Brown. “We need citizens’ help to enforce the law. If people aren’t willing to identify the violators and the officers cannot identify the individual in possession of, or lighting fireworks, our options are pretty limited.”
In order for Loveland Police to be able to cite offenders, they need a detailed description of the violator (clothing, height, weight, other identifiers), the specific location and description of the fireworks used, and contact information for the caller should follow up be necessary. Without the appropriate evidence to support prosecution, police officers may be able to seize and destroy illegal fireworks but they cannot hold the offenders responsible through the courts. More importantly, the officers cannot help the neighborhood return to its peaceful and safe state of normalcy.
While catching people in the act is challenging, when it does happen, the consequences can be significant. Adult offenders can face up to a $1,000 fine plus court costs, possible community service, a year of probation and payment for damages. If arson charges are filed, the court costs, fines and possible attorney fees add up quickly. Fines for juveniles are generally less but they may have to attend education classes (offender pays approximately $100 for the class), do community service and pay a $500 fine. And because they are minors, parents must be involved in all proceedings and may have to take off work.
Both the Police and Fire departments are asking residents to celebrate Independence Day in a way that maintains neighborhood peace and safety. “Fireworks, both legal and illegal, cause a lot of damage, so we advise people to not use them. Instead we encourage residents to attend the City of Loveland Fireworks display at Lake Loveland, and celebrate safely,” said Ned Sparks, Loveland Fire Rescue Authority, Community Safety Division Chief/Fire Marshal.
For more information on fireworks safety, go to www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Fireworks.