Chandler Council OKs fireworks use on streets - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Council OKs fireworks use on streets

March 2nd, 2022 development
Chandler Council OKs fireworks use on streets

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

An inadvertent change to the Chandler’s fire code to allow fireworks to be set off on residential streets is now being embraced by City Council – even though their attorney warned   it opens them up to possible lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the State House has signed off on a bill, which now goes to the Senate, that would ban the use of fireworks between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. on days they’re allowed. The only exception would be New Year’s Eve and July 4, when fireworks could be used between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The 2014 Chandler Fire Code banned legal fireworks from being set off on residential streets and sidewalks without a permit. The fire code is updated every few years based on recommendations by the International Code Council and National Fire Protection Association.

In 2018, that part of the code that banned fireworks from being set off on residential streets and sidewalks was inadvertently left off when the Council approved it.

This year Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins urged putting the language back into the code.

“This language, right now, if you look at our website, and if you look at a lot of the things that we push out to the business community and our citizens, it already says this right now, that it is prohibited in these areas. So, we’re just trying to make sure that we are in alignment with what we’re pushing out to the community and put it back into the ordinance.”

However, Councilmember Mark Stewart objected.

“I don’t want to be on a Council that tells kids they can’t shoot off fireworks in front of their house,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he considers forcing citizens to set fireworks off on their property riskier because they would be closer to their homes or trees that could catch on fire.

He said setting them off in a cul-de-sac is relatively low risk.

However, City Attorney Kelley Schwab urged caution.

“Generally, we prohibit anything on the road other than driving for safety reasons,” she said. “As the city attorney, and risk manager, I have to express some concern about allowing people to go onto the streets to set off fireworks or engage in other activity that may not be complimentary to cars driving on it. If somebody wanted to have a party, there’s ways to do that, and do it safely.”

Councilmember Matt Orlando said he would oppose the change that would remove residential streets and sidewalks because of that liability risk.

“I just don’t want to put the burden back on the taxpayers on this one,” Orlando said. He asked Schwab if passing the fire code without banning the fireworks from residential streets puts the city at risk.

“If there’s an injury, somehow, and someone is hurt or their property is damaged, the person who lit off the fireworks is very likely to be sued and the city will probably be dragged into that lawsuit,” she said. “From a safety and risk perspective, our best recommendation is to allow traffic-related activities in the street.”

Stewart stressed these would be only legal fireworks set off during the four periods allowed by the state. Any illegal fireworks, including all of them that explode in the sky, would still be banned.

Councilmember OD Harris said that setting off legal fireworks in the streets has been legal since that inadvertent change in 2018, and that so far, there have been no ill-effects or lawsuits because of it.

Schwab pointed out that change was never publicized and most people did not know about it. In fact, as Dwiggins said, city materials said it was banned even if the code did not.

However, Harris said he would support the amendment removing streets and sidewalks. He did say that it may be something to look at later if it becomes a problem and they could put it back in at that time.

Council voted 6-1 to remove residential streets and sidewalks from the fire code with only Orlando voting against.