The City Council heard a plea support a ban on fireworks.
“Yes, fireworks could be a tradition. But fireworks cause harm to many in our community,” Bebe Michel, a resident, said at last week’s meeting. “Our freedom to shoot off fireworks ends when it causes harm to others. With freedom comes responsibility and consideration for each other. Let’s look for better ways to celebrate.”
Michel’s comments echo those heard from other residents in July. In response, city staff put together a draft ordinance banning fireworks.
Violators could be subject to a maximum fine of $500 per day.
Possessing or discharging any fireworks would be prohibited without the written permission of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department manager of the beach area.
The ban would not extend past the urban growth boundary. That would mean the Palisades, the Highlands and the beach would not be affected, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.
The ban could prohibit sparklers, wheels and torches, along with aerial devices like rockets and Roman candles. Firecrackers, noisemakers and “chasers” that travel along the ground could also be prohibited.
In correspondence, police and fire officials opposed the ordinance.
“The City Council can pass an ordinance or not, but it will not stop the discharging of illegal fireworks,” Police Chief Jeff Bowman said. “The logic of making something illegal so it will stop illegal actions does not make sense.”
Families normally are not reckless in nature as they don’t want any of their family members or friends injured, Bowman said. “Nor do they want their neighborhood catching on fire,” he said. “The fireworks are generally set off in the street with little chance that anything will catch on fire. And since the discarded fireworks are in front of their residence, they generally clean it up.”
Interim Fire Chief Josh Como said firefighters and police cannot seize or write fines for fireworks unless witnessing them being set off.
“Creating this ordinance will only hurt the core of the city of Gearhart, the people that are recreating safely, where legal fireworks have not been a threat or harm to the public or had fire department issues with legal fireworks,” Como said.
This year, out of 25 calls on the Fourth of July, none were directly to illegal fireworks, he said.
“Placing a fireworks ban into effect will create a greater strain in which we will not be able to handle the extra threat dune grass fires, as well as structure fires, present,” Como said.
Mayor Paulina Cockrum and City Councilor Dan Jesse, Councilor Kerry Smith and Councilor Brent Warren voted to consider a proposed draft of the ordinance at a work session tentatively scheduled for November. City Councilor Reita Fackerell voted against considering the draft.