Jackson ordinance sets safety measures for fireworks vendors

Monday, June 28, 2010
A "No Smoking" sign is clearly posted at Fireworks City in Jackson as Debbie Kyle checks out Edna Yarbro, left, and Beth Mott on Sunday in Jackson. Yarbro and Mott were buying fireworks for their children for their Fourth of July celebration next weekend.
LAURA SIMON
lsimon@semissourian.com

With Sunday's official start to Jackson's fireworks season, the city's fire marshal continues to review safety procedures at fireworks tents to ensure vendors are complying with regulations.

"They're usually good about it," Jackson fire marshal Randy Davis said. "They know. Most of them have been here for years."

In 2004 the city passed a new ordinance regarding the sale and use of fireworks in response to a house fire caused by Independence Day pyrotechnics.

This year marks the fifth Fourth of July prohibiting the use or sale of aerial fireworks, which use a straight and rigid stick attached to a propellant tube or driver to stabilize or direct flight. Bottle rockets are an example of aerial fireworks.

While there are still minor accidents and fires that occur, there have been no house fires caused by fireworks in Jackson since the ban.

Davis said he thinks the regulations the city has in place are sufficient and no additional measures are necessary at this time.

Last year the Jackson Board of Aldermen considered a motion banning the sale and use of all fireworks within the city limits. That ban was not passed, but the city does maintain safety regulations.

These regulations include flame retardant tent fabric; keeping surrounding areas free of hay, straw and similar materials; prohibiting parking within 10 feet of the sales location; and requiring at least two fire extinguishers onsite. All tents must post signs prohibiting smoking, and tents must be at least 100 feet from gas stations. Customers must be at least 17 years old to purchase fireworks, and employees younger than 17 must be supervised by an adult.

There are also restrictions on what is sold at the tents. In addition to the ban on aerial fireworks, items possessing more than 1.4 grams of black powder are restricted.

Fireworks City manager Keith Kyle said the city's regulations are fair, but he would like to see one repealed.

"The biggest regulation, of course, is on the product," Kyle said. "I wish we could sell bottle rockets and that kind of thing because a lot of people ask about that. It would help my sales, but I also understand [the ban]."

He is one of three vendors in Jackson this year, with a tent next to Country Mart on East Jackson Boulevard.

Safety is important, Kyle said, and that prompts his tent's strict adherence to the rules.

"We are very cautious about carding students that come in," he said. "We make sure they are the right age and everything. We train our employees on how to handle the fire extinguishers and they have [hazardous material] training. They are well-versed in safety procedures."

He said all of this training is regularly applied during the one-week selling period. His employees try to establish interaction with the customers as soon as they enter the tent to prevent problems and misunderstandings.

"We try to greet people at the door," Kyle said. "It is one thing that is kind of the hallmark of our tent. I think that helps us squelch any potential problems. We remind them not to smoke, they must be 17, that kind of thing."

He added that it was "amazing" how many people employees have to stop at the door and ask to extinguish a cigarette.

Kyle said most fireworks customers and users are responsible. He said if someone comes into the tent and appears to be intoxicated and not behaving responsibly, he will not sell them fireworks.

"There has been a time or two that someone has come in fairly drunk, usually on [July 3 or 4]," he said. "If they are not going to be responsible, I won't sell to them."

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

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