September 27, 2022

Jasper County puts permitting process in place for rural pyrotechnics shows

Fireworks displays outside city limits, state timelines need permits

Jasper County residents who want to organize large fireworks displays away from city limits and outside the state’s timeline must now fill out a permit.

If the permit is approved by the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, residents will be granted authorization to discharge their display fireworks for entertainment purposes, ensure the show will be handled by a competent operator and acknowledge the county is not liable for any damages.

The board of supervisors on June 22 approved the issuing of these particular types of permits, which Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma described as a “temporary exception” or “variance.” Talsma noted the issue has come up in the past and wanted the board to address it once and for all.

“Since this is now the second time in three years this has come up,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to have that deeper conversation and just allow permitting from here on out and let people have the opportunity of applying for a permit if they’re looking at operating outside of what the state allows.”

According to state code, consumer fireworks can be used 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 1 through July 8 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 3 of each year, with some exceptions.

On July 4 and the Saturdays and Sundays immediately preceding or following Independence Day, Iowans may light off fireworks 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; they can also discharge fireworks from 9 a.m. Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. Jan. 1 in observance of New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day.

State code also allows city councils or a county board of supervisors to grant permits for display fireworks usage by “municipalities, fair associations, amusement parks and other organizations or groups of individuals,” who upon approval must ensure their displays are handled by a competent operator.

Jasper County included a copy of the display fireworks permit in the agenda. Applicants must include their name and the address and date of the display.

Blaine Barker, a resident of Jasper County for 34 years, requested a permit during the June 22 meeting, and it was approved by supervisors in a 2-1 vote; supervisor Denny Carpenter voted “nay.” In addition to filling out the form, Barker included a detailed letter to the board of supervisors.

In it, he said his fireworks show 9 to 10 p.m. July 9 is scheduled one day after the state’s timeline. Held in an open field on 11.5 acres of private land outside city limits, the show will take place away from any structures or trees. Barker noted a single-family dwelling and some barns were in the corner of the property.

“This is an annual show that normally takes place within the state guidelines, however this year we struggled with scheduling of the event as we try our hardest not to conflict with community events,” Barker’s letter said, adding that the show will take place a half mile from any neighbors.

“Each year we try our best to make sure any neighbors affected are aware of the additional noise and keep communication open with them. If a special permit is approved, I personally would be willing to send letters to each neighbor prior to the event.”

Barker also absolved Jasper County “from any and all claims, cause of action against the county for any personal injury, damage, loss, harm and any other type of expense.” He also promised not to sue or exercise any legal right to seek damages from the county.

To prepare for his fireworks display, Barker said he and his wife complete hours of research to make sure they are as safe as possible. Barker uses a 72-cue electronic ignition system which allows him to wirelessly discharge each firework from over 500 yards away.

“The show is set up in a manner which allows us the opportunity to stop the show every 30 seconds during the 30-minute show,” Barker said. “Additionally, we alter our mowing schedule and mow the field shorter (and) will have extinguishers ready to prevent any fires.”

Barker said he and his wife are active volunteers in the community and knows how much planning and effort goes into in-town celebrations, which is why he schedules the annual show — which is organized in part to commemorate his wife’s birthday — in a way that does not conflict with those other events.

Although the fireworks display is for his close friends and family members, Barker says his neighbors have often watched the show from their properties. Barker estimates there will be 5,000 shots fired during this year’s show. The Newton native has stocked up pyrotechnics for the past year.

Unable to host his show before the state’s timeline because of prior engagements, Barker was pleased the supervisors approved his display.

“Just having the ability to do be able to do it and put it all together and everything — seeing it all finally come together is a big thing, because there’s a lot of planning that goes into it,” Barker said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.