One Lee’s Summit council member is ready to talk about changing Lee’s Summit’s rules on fireworks.
Councilman Dave Mosby, at the city’s June 19 meeting, asked the other council members to consider cutting back the number of days residents can legally shoot fireworks. Consumer fireworks can be shot in Lee’s Summit July 2-4, during restricted hours.
Mosby asked that they watch what goes on during the coming holiday. He said that during the 15 years he’s lived in the city there’s been a continual increase in the number of people shooting fireworks.
“If you go out and drive around on the Fourth of July, it’s an absolute war out there,” Mosby said.
Mosby, who is a corporate safety specialist, said hospitals are having to treat people for fireworks injuries and there are great risks for fires or accidents.
“We’re going to have a major incident some day, probabilities would say that,” Mosby said. “You see cops out, but they can’t arrest everybody on the street, every household.”
Other council members didn’t respond to his suggestion.
Mosby could have pressed for Councilman Allan Gray, mayor pro tem, to assign the issue to a committee, but he said in an interview this week that without ready support for his idea, he wanted to give other council members time to mull it over.
He said he had brought up the topic without warning so perhaps he’d have more response after the holiday and other members observed what’s taking place in neighborhoods.
Area hospitals report 10 to 15 fireworks injuries every year, said Assistant Fire Chief Jim Eden. In the last five years the injuries have been minor, he said. Limited information on local injuries is available because or privacy regulations and how records are kept.
The department has responded two calls for treating two fireworks injuries in 2009 and one in 2012.
In 2011, responding to questions from the fire department, Saint Luke’s East Hospital reported it saw 25 “non-significant” injuries over the July 4 weekend.
Each year the department responds to an average of about 10 fireworks fires, often in grass or brush. In 2012, because of the harsh, dry conditions, it skyrocketed to 33, with one structure fire that started on a roof.
Eden said the city has been fortunate not to have had a large-loss structure fire or major injuriers.
“It doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” Eden said. “Legal does not mean safe. They’re labeled explosives, and they’re just that.”
Eden said people using fireworks need to be careful to make sure there aren’t any embers in debris and as a caution, do not dispose of debris inside the house. More safety tips are at the department’s website: lsfire.net.
During days around the July 4 holiday, the city also incurs extra expense for answering calls related to fireworks.
Lee’s Summit Police Department spokesman Chris Depue said the city starts enforcement to handle fireworks calls in a timely manner, beginning on July 29 through July 5.
The police department incurs overtime because of additional officers on duty to handle fireworks calls in a timely manner and so it can keep units unobligated for emergency calls.
It has one additional officer working from 3-11 p.m. June 29 to July 2 to assist with fireworks calls and from July 3-5 to six additional officers working staggered shifts, providing coverage from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The total for the enforcement detail is 104 man hours, Depue said. Every officer has a different overtime rate, but using an estimated average of $30 per hour, that cost is about $4,120 dollars, he said.
Mosby said he started thinking about the issue last year after the holiday when he’d talked with Martin Magers, a retired Lee’s Summit fire captain, who is one resident concerned about the issue.
Magers, in an interview, said in his opinion part of the problem is people begin shooting fireworks a day or two early and continue a day or so after the legal days. The result is five or six days of bangs instead of three in the city limits, he said.
His reasoning is that having only one legal day, July 4,could have the effect of shortening the time people use fireworks, even if breaking the rules, and decreasing the threat of injuries or fires and disturbing other residents.
“I want people to have fun,” Magers said. “But let’s be reasonable about it.”