Uncommonwealth: Enough of the bombs bursting in air already

ctruman@herald-leader.comAugust 26, 2012 

Neighborhood-level fireworks found new life in Lexington based on a 2011 ordinance, but they now face a possible ban.

CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF

It's more than seven weeks after July 4, and periodically, when the sun goes down, the Bluegrass still goes boom.

That's why a committee of Lexington's Urban County Council passed a proposal to ban the purchase and detonation of aerial fireworks including bottle rockets, mortars and loud firecracker explosives.

The sight of the rocket's red glare and bombs bursting in air has some appeal when you're slurping a Popsicle in the July 4 heat, but by the time school is back in session, it has effectively lost its appeal as a neighborhood amenity.

If the full council passes the ordinance, it would take effect immediately, replacing 2011 ordinance that limited the days and times when aerial fireworks and firecrackers could be detonated. Given that the 2012 proposal sailed through the public safety committee, its passage is almost assured.

The 2011 ordinance restricted set-off times to between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., except for New Year's Eve and July 3 and 4, when the deadline was extended until midnight. For safety purposes, fireworks were banned within 200 feet of cars, buildings or people.

If your neighborhood is one that abides scrupulously by that law, you might be living a sheltered life.

This year marks the second year that the more complicated pyrotechnics — bottle rockets, mortars and firecrackers — have been legal in Kentucky.

Kentucky is one of 46 states that allow some or all types of consumer fireworks, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association. Not only does that particular organization exist, but it's having its annual convention October 2 through 5 at the Hyatt Regency in Louisville.

Iowa, Illinois, Vermont and Ohio ban all fireworks except for small stick-type novelties such as sparklers. Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York ban all consumer fireworks, period.

Years ago, then-council member Gloria Martin broached the idea of studying light pollution in the Bluegrass. Now that we're used to stadium lights leaving some neighborhoods with an abundance of night glow, noise pollution is back at the forefront.

The Christmas season seems to begin as early as August, and the July 4 fireworks season now seems to begin in June and end in August. For those with jumpy dogs, frightened kids or a desire to sleep before 1 a.m., it's all a bit much.

Nationally, it's tough to discern a trend. Some states and communities are opening up sales of the grander fireworks, but others that have already done so are dealing with irate citizens.

In Michigan this year, numerous communities banned the use of the newly legal big-boom fireworks in all but about 30 days a year. If Kentucky communities followed suit, home fireworks enthusiasts could start setting off fireworks in late June and would have to stop igniting by the end of July.

In Utah, aerial "cake" fireworks — so named because all the candles point upwards, as in a birthday cake — became legal this year, and the monthlong fireworks season confused many, who detest fireworks as their neighbors set off pyrotechnics during the prohibited times between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on days not associated with a holiday.

But in Utah, they have an extra state holiday, Pioneer Day, on July 24. Perhaps if Lexington initiated a Blow-It-All-Up holiday later in July, we could have silent nights by August.

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202.

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