After more than $250,000 in citywide damage, major injury to a child, an arson investigation, and double the number of 911 calls, several residents clamored for a change to local fireworks regulations, up to and including a total ban.
But this year, those regulations will for the most part remain unchanged, according to Mayor Joe Pitts.
“I think it’s reasonable to conclude the pandemic lockdown and the lack of community-sponsored fireworks displays played a role in the 2020 surge in fireworks-related activity and the number of calls for service,” Pitts said in a news release. “We hope the return of public celebrations and progress against the pandemic will improve our 2021 experience.
“Thus, we will impose no new restrictions for the coming 2021 Fourth of July seasonal celebrations. However, we will continue to monitor and assess what happens this year and reserve the possibility of imposing some new fireworks restrictions in the future if we see a repeat of the problems we encountered in 2020.”
One law that’s new this year is a ban on “fireworks wars,” which was a culprit in a lot of last year’s mayhem, with juveniles shooting fireworks at one another.
On Aug. 6, the City Council unanimously passed a law making it illegal to discharge fireworks into or out of a motor vehicle or to throw fireworks at a person, group of people or building.
Some council members at the time called for a total ban on personal fireworks, but that hasn’t come to pass.
Damage, calls and major injury
Last year, fireworks-related 911 calls jumped to 670 from May 15 to July 15, up from an average rate of 300-350 during the same period from 2016-19, according to Police Chief David Crockarell.
One of those calls resulted in an ongoing arson investigation after a home was hit by fireworks and burned. Some of the calls resulted in custodial arrests, according to the news release.
Property damage from fireworks in 2020 totaled more than $250,000, according to Clarksville Fire Rescue officials. In one instance, fireworks caused a major injury to a juvenile.
In Clarksville, fireworks can be set off inside the city limits only from July 1 to 5 between 6 and 10 p.m.
It’s against the law:
- To bring fireworks to any city park or on city property, except for city-sponsored events.
- For any person under 16 to use or possess fireworks unless under the direct supervision of an adult.
- To set off fireworks within 600 feet of any church, hospital, asylum, public school, or within 200 feet of where fireworks are stored or sold.
- To set off fireworks inside a vehicle or to throw fireworks at a vehicle.
- To throw or aim fireworks at people, groups of people or houses (this is a new law this year).
The city’s free annual Independence Day Celebration will be Saturday, July 3, at Liberty Park. The park will open at 5 p.m. with activities and music at 6:50 p.m. and the firework show at 9 p.m.
Clarksville Police offered these safety tips for handling fireworks:
- Know your fireworks, read the labels and understand the specifications before igniting.
- A responsible adult, 18 or older, should oversee and ensure the proper use of fireworks.
- Wear proper safety gear, such as safety glasses and gloves, when shooting fireworks.
- Light one firework at a time and then move away.
- Ensure fireworks are used outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings, cars, or other potential hazards. Keep away from dry grass, brush, leaves and flammable substances.
- Have a bucket of water, charged water hose, or fire extinguisher nearby.
- Don’t relight a dud firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Fireworks should not be carried in your pocket or shot from metal or glass containers.
- Spent fireworks can still be a fire hazard, so wet them down and place them in a metal trash can away from a building or combustible materials.
- Be extra careful with sparklers, they can reach temperatures over 1,200 degrees.