The spokesman for the Cedar Rapids Public Safety Department says they hope a fireworks accident isn’t the start of another period like they had last summer when fireworks became legal to sell in the state.
Spokesman Greg Buelow says a 19-year-old had a firecracker go off in his hand Tuesday. “The victim sustained a serious hand injury, including the loss of several fingers,” Buelow says. “We obviously feel this is an unfortunate incident — but at the same time we have the obligation to tell people these are preventable.” Buelow says the accident happened even though it is not legal to use fireworks in the city.
“Our city council made that decision last fall after we received literally thousands of complaints about fireworks being set off in the city of Cedar Rapids. Quite frankly last year did not go well at all in the city. We had 13 fire incidents involving fireworks — including three building fires — with the worst building fire causing a $140,000 in damage to a house,” according to Buelow.
Buelow says no matter where you live, you should check your local ordinance to see if it is legal to set off fireworks. He says there is sometimes confusion because the law allows for the sale of fireworks in cities — even if they ban their use. Another concern is all the noise from the fireworks causing people to not pay attention to other things going on in their neighborhoods. He says they had people who heard gunshots from an actual shooting, but did not call police because they thought the sounds were fireworks. Buelow says that concerns police and it becomes a big public safety issue.
There are some neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids where the homes are very close together, and he says the only magnifies the issues caused by fireworks. “We heard from veterans and pet owners and people who had quite frankly had it with the constant barrage of noise,” he says. Buelow says there have not been a lot of calls for fireworks yet in Cedar Rapids, but he says beginning Wednesday vendors can now sell them from portable tents.
“The availability of them is actually going to increase around here,” Buelow says. “so, we hope that the complaints don’t increase. We certainly have a plan for how to deploy police officers and how to address this.” Fireworks can legally be sold in the state from June 1st through July 8th. Many cities took advantage of the provision that allows them to ban fireworks. If you are cited for illegally shooting off fireworks in Cedar Rapids you must make a court appearance and the fine can be up to 625 dollars.
Last year was the first year the sale of fireworks had been illegal in the state of Iowa since 1938.