With Independence Day fast approaching, Davenport leaders are issuing an early warning to people who celebrate with a bang: Follow the law.
Under the city’s ordinance, fireworks use is permitted July 3 and July 4 from 2–11 p.m. Over the coming weeks, the local fire department is teaming up with the city’s communications department to begin a social media campaign aimed at educating the public about the law, encouraging safe fireworks use and warning residents of potential fines.
Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris told city officials Tuesday that police and fire departments were “inundated” with fireworks reports last year. And he cautioned that there are still illegal fireworks out there that could lead to serious injuries, like some that occurred last year.
“Be aware of what type of fireworks you’re shooting,” Morris said, “because people are still buying unlabeled fireworks that are homemade, and that’s a lot of what’s causing our injuries."
For those who disobey the city ordinance, Morris also cautioned that there is a steep price to pay: A first offense can tally up to almost $400 including court costs. Aldermen attending Tuesday’s briefing encouraged law enforcement to issue fines when people break the law.
“No freebies on enforcement,” said Alderman Mike Matson, 7th Ward, adding: “Ticket as best as you can.”
Morris said the department's plan is to use the same coordinated enforcement plan that was put in place last year. That involved four days of enforcement for writing tickets, and at one point two separate units did nothing but handle fireworks calls. And the law enforcement arm will often observe lawbreakers from unmarked cars to catch them in the act, Morris said.
“We don’t take the fire truck” out on surveillance, Morris said.
Since Iowa lawmakers opened the door for fireworks sales two years ago, local governments around the state have been looking for ways to safely allow sales and uses in their communities.
Inspections of sellers are handled by the local fire safety officials on behalf of the state fire marshal’s office. So far in Davenport, six permits have been issued to sellers, Morris said, and more are expected to come.
In other news:
As he works toward the creation of a task force to examine ways to mitigate future flooding, Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch said the important matter at hand is the new round of flooding affecting the city.
“We’re not going to necessarily implement the task force until we’re done fighting this current flood,” Klipsch said. “I think it’s important to finish this before we move forward.”
Klispch in recent weeks announced the task force in response to major flooding in late April that sent water gushing through the heart of downtown after the city’s temporary levee breached. He said Tuesday that several questions must be addressed to determine actionable steps moving forward, including how to help the city’s businesses and residents remain protected, what the city can protect and what flood mitigation solutions are available.
“I think it would be ill advised to go to a solution until we know exactly defined what the problem is or what the goal is,” Klipsch said.