Cedar Rapids official: Iowa’s new fireworks law does cities ‘no favors’

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This 49-shot fireworks display was among the most popular at the Iowa Fireworks Co. tent last year on Bowling Street SW in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids has seen more fireworks vendors this year after a new state law prohibited cities from restricting consumer fireworks sales to certain parts of the city, leaving some city officials frustrated and looking for ways to ease the burden the fireworks place on public safety personnel.

Last year, an authorized fireworks tent operated in Cedar Rapids. This year, 10 venues sold fireworks — all with state permits, but only seven of them with city permits.

City council member Dale Todd, who chairs the council’s public safety and youth services committee, told a meeting this week that the Iowa legislature had “did a disservice” to the cities with the new law.

“When you look at companies that put up pop-up tents and sell these things, they have no respect for our community when they do that,” Todd said.

State law allows municipalities to regulate whether it is legal to set off fireworks for consumers within city limits. In Cedar Rapids, lighting fireworks for consumers is illegal and violators could be fined $625.

Cedar Rapids police received 628 fireworks calls in June and July, down from the previous two years. The city has issued 12 citations for illegal fireworks use this year.

Officials say there is no conclusive reason for the drop in calls for service, but the drop comes as municipal fireworks shows have resumed after being canceled during the pandemic.

No fires were confirmed to be caused by fireworks this year, although fireworks may have contributed to several residential fires and small dumpsters.

Public safety personnel worked an additional 48 hours to respond to calls for fireworks, according to the city.

Todd questioned the idea behind a “big box store” that had multiple locations with fireworks tents offering a buy one, get two free offer.

“Bill them the overtime bill the taxpayers have to incur because of their pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of everyone else in the community they’re supposed to care about,” Todd said.

Cedar Rapids City Council Member Dale Todd

Todd said the sound of fireworks can be especially disruptive to people with special needs, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pets. He said he wants municipalities to be able to delegate citizens to write tickets to those who illegally set off fireworks within city limits.

Council member Ashley Vanorny said the state has its hands tied on the fireworks issue.

“It’s hard for me to reconcile this celebration because, honestly, there are a lot of people who claim that they celebrate this way – it’s illegal – in the name of freedom and in the name of our troops that they activate their PTSD,” Vanorny said.

“… They say: ‘Love your professions of (firefighters) and (police)’, but they prevent you from answering emergency calls.”

Cedar Rapids City Council Member Ashley Vanorny

List of suppliers

The city and state-licensed fireworks vendors in Cedar Rapids this year were:

  • Bellino Fireworks, 4035 Mount Vernon Rd. SE (tent by Hy-Vee)
  • Bellino Fireworks, 4220 16th Ave. SW (tent by Fareway)
  • Bellino Fireworks, 1843 Johnson Ave. NW (tent by Hy-Vee)
  • Iowa Fireworks, 4401 Bowling St. SW (tent)
  • Iowa Fireworks, 2455 Williams Blvd. SO (tent)
  • Tiger Tooth Fireworks, 2800 Wiley Blvd. SW (container by Menards.)
  • TNT Fireworks, 2605 Blairs Ferry Road. NE (container by Sam’s Club.)

The state has listed permits for 14 vendors in Cedar Rapids, seven of which are not on the city’s list.

Fire Chief Greg Smith said the state’s listing has two vendors outside the city limits and the fireworks sold at two of the locations were novelty items and below the quantity requiring a separate municipal permit.

The other three were operated by Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa, which had a state permit but not a city temporary structure permit.

Supplier dispute

Smith said this week the city is working with Legal Services regarding Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa’s failure to obtain the city permit.

In a statement, Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa said it has applied to the city for a temporary structure permit for its three sites “with sufficient time.” According to the company, the city neither approved nor refused this permit.

The company argued that Cedar Rapids tried to impose standards for a temporary structure from the International Fire Code, which the company says is “significantly different” from the National Fire’s fireworks policy. Protection Association, Standard 1124, as required by the State Legislature and State Fire Marshal. .

“The state has established rules that everyone must follow,” the company’s statement said. “Cedar Rapids tried to apply a different set of rules.”

This company is separate from the company based in Windsor, Wisconsin. Cornellier fireworkswho didn’t have a tent in Cedar Rapids.

Smith said Cornellier Fireworks of Iowa did not receive a permit from the city because it was looking to display more than 500 pounds of product in a tent area.

He said the business could have an unlimited amount in another secure trailer or Conex box, but to protect the community from accidents, 500 pounds is the cap for items displayed in a display area.

“We don’t limit their sale of fireworks in any way,” Smith said. “…We feel that we were well within our obligation within the city limits as fire marshal and fire chief to limit display in tents, as we do not limit sale in any form.”

Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Greg Smith

Other sellers in the past have submitted a pre-plan showing their plans to stay within the 500-pound limit of consumer-grade fireworks displayed, Smith said.

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