Tuesday, May 12, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Fireworks set fuse in Cabot

The Cabot City Council is considering lifting the city’s ban on fireworks, which would make official what has long been known: Police officers have stopped responding to every complaint about bottle rockets.

Rather than ignore the ban and complaints, the police department would like to change the law. Under a proposed ordinance, which must be read two more times before it is put to a vote, residents will be allowed to shoot fireworks from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. July 1-5 and 10 a.m. Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. New Year’s Day.

But there has been a lot of opposition from people who value their peace and quiet. Recent letters to the editor in these pages highlight those concerns. (See letter below.)

Opponents are also concerned about safety, saying that risk of fire and people getting injured or burned is reason enough to keep the ban.

Fire Chief Phil Robinson points out that fireworks in recent years have only caused small grass fires in town. But, in 2012, on July Fourth, an elderly woman lost her home when her neighbors, ignoring a burn ban, started a wildfire on Mountain Springs Road. Other homes could have been destroyed had not four fire departments, including Cabot’s, responded to the scene.

A county-ordered burn ban will always trump Cabot residents’ right to shoot fireworks if the rules are to be changed. But news about severe droughts and burn bans is hard to compete with July Fourth fervor.

As much as fireworks are considered a minor seasonal nuisance, shooting fireworks still bothers neighbors who value their peace and quiet. Everyone has a neighbor who is already putting together a small arsenal of fireworks to mark their new freedom.

Allowing fireworks to be shot over five days in July has especially raised concerns that the proposed ordinance is going overboard.

Some residents are also skeptical that celebrants will end the fireworks promptly at 11 p.m. when it’s common to hear them well after midnight on the Fourth.

But city officials have been careful to respect quality of life with a recognition that the ban has failed and police officers have better things to do than run all over town all night asking people to stop celebrating Independence Day so loudly.

Assistant Police Chief Danny Clem said, “We could put every officer on our force on during those nights, and it’d be troublesome for us (to enforce the ban).”

Founding Father John Adams, our country’s second president and a key figure in the American Revolution, wrote to his wife that July Fourth should be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

So it could be far more raucous.

In the meantime, the council will hear the proposal read for a second time at 7 p.m. Monday. Alderman Rick Prentice has said he will probably vote against it, and Alderman Doyle Tullos has invited some concerned residents to speak against the measure. Expect a big turnout.