With summer in full swing and the Fourth of July holiday quickly approaching, legal fireworks will have its second go around in Newton and in many Iowa cities.
The Newton Police and Fire Departments want to remind citizens fireworks are only legal in city limits on July 4 and to take every safety precaution when handling the explosives.
“One of the things we saw last July 4 and throughout the season, even though fireworks may be legal on July 4, there are still some safety issues involved, you still have to follow the code,” Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said. “Since June 1, the NPD has already had four fireworks complaints in the city. That is not a huge number, but despite it being illegal, people are still shooting them off. There is only one day this summer you can shoot it off in city limits.”
Fireworks within city limits are allowed between 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July and between 9 a.m. on Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. New Year’s Day.
Along with the time regulations, there are several other requirements to use fireworks within city limits. Those requirements include:
• No person under the age of 18 is allowed to discharge a DOT 1.4 class consumer firework without parental supervision.
• A person can only discharge a consumer fireworks device on real property they own or on a property where consent has been given. Novelties, including snakes, sparklers or caps, can be discharged on a public place so long as all trash, wrappers and wires are properly disposed.
• Consumer fireworks cannot be discharged by anyone showing visible signs of, or determined to be, intoxicated or under the influence of a drug or narcotic.
• Any person discharging a consumer fireworks device assumes all responsibility for its operation and the consequences thereof. No person can discharge a consumer firework device in a reckless manner or manner likely to cause death, injury, fire or property damage.
• Fireworks may not be altered, removed or discharged from its intended method. Sky lantern open flame devices are not permitted to be released within the city limits, except if tethered by a retrievable rope so long as the person discharging has control over the sky lantern.
“We saw a lot of people shooting fireworks from the street and street is not a part of your own personal property,” Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik said.
Newton did have one serious injury resulting from fireworks use in 2017. A 5-year-old was hit in the chest and face after a firework tipped over when being discharged. The child was transported to Iowa City with burns, Newton Fire Marshall Mike Knoll said.
Using fireworks illegally in Newton will now come with harsher punishment after city council recently approved an ordinance enacting a social host section that would indirectly allow for the enforcement of illegal fireworks use by holding a “responsible party” accountable for the illegal activity. Should a person or responsible party be found in violation of the restriction in the ordinance change, they would be guilty of a municipal infraction and subject to a penalty of $250 for each offense.
“This allows us to pursue the responsible party, which may not be the person setting off the fireworks,” Burdess said. “That could be the homeowner, that could be the person responsible for the event or party. It doesn’t require us to actually see the fireworks being shot off, this ordinance is a civil infraction so the burden of proof is a lot lower. All we have to do is establish that fireworks are being shot off at the property utilizing evidence that we see at the scene.”
The sale of fireworks is also underway with six establishments currently located in Newton. The locations must be within three city districts including C-A Arterial Commercial, I-L Light Industrial and I-H Heavy Industrial and are not allowed in residential zones, agricultural zone, neighborhood commercial zone, office commercial zone, central business district zone and restricted light industrial zone.
“The message needs to be that people who are going to discharge them need to do it safely,” Wellik said. “The very last thing we want to see is people getting hurt or property burning down, that’s one of the big fears we have, that it could be very destructive to citizens.”
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-1312 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org