Lexington fire officials have agreed to lower minimum insurance requirements from $5 million to $2 million for private groups or neighborhoods that want to shoot fireworks.
Lexington Battalion Chief Mike Farmer, the city's fire marshal, told the Lexington council's Planning and Public Safety Committee Tuesday that the change will take effect immediately. "We will implement this tomorrow," Farmer said.
Councilwoman Amanda Bledsoe praised the change and thanked the department for addressing the insurance requirement that led at least one neighborhood to cancel its longstanding fireworks display July 4. "I think this has been a great process," Bledsoe said.
The state requires a minimum $1 million insurance policy for fireworks permits. But in March the city increased the minimum to $5 million based on several settlements of fireworks-related injuries that $1 million-plus, Patrick Johnson, the city's risk manager, told the council in August. Some of those suits resulted in judgments close to $5 million.
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But the increase in insurance requirements caught Firebrook neighborhood by surprise. The neighborhood did not have the money to pay for the increased insurance premium and had to cancel its fireworks display. Firebrook is in Bledsoe's district. Two other groups — both churches — also opted not to get permits this year, but five groups — including the Downtown Lexington Corp. — were issued permits.
Farmer has said most commercial fireworks operators carry at least $5 million in insurance. Some neighborhoods use smaller firework shooters that don't carry that insurance.
Although the city lowered the insurance requirements for private groups sponsoring fireworks on private property, it did not lower requirements for city-sponsored events, events held on city property or fireworks shot over a public roadway. The minimum insurance requirements for those events will remain $5 million.