Most people love fireworks. Robin McKinney loves fireworks, but she does not like the big, booming, illegal fireworks that scare her dog in Wichita. And there’s the flashpoint.
Last year she went to a Fourth of July picnic and came home to find her dog bloodied about the face and paws.
“He had dug a hole through my bedroom door big enough I could crawl through it.” He did it, she said, because of the big booms near her home. “They are so loud that I can feel them in my chest, even with my earplugs in.”
Fireworks, the nonstop display of color and noise, embedded their allure in our social DNA centuries ago at the first U.S. Independence Day, 1777.
For many, fireworks are part of a childhood tradition. But for others, they are scary or annoying.
Kristen Gillmore Gifford loves fireworks. But she plans to find out whether a doggie treat bag containing hemp seed oil sold at Wichita’s Doo Dah Diner really does have a calming effect on dogs terrified by fireworks. Gifford and her husband plan to stay sleepless over the next few days, hugging dogs, and her stepdaughter, who has disabilities.
“The noise sends her into a frenzy, she screams and cries,” Gifford said of her stepdaughter. The dogs — Gifford runs a pet-sitting business called The Crazy Dog Lady — become so frantic that Gifford wraps them tight in blankets, “like a little burrito.”
Toni Tilma plans to shadow her neighbor over the next few days — a neighbor with mental problems. The big booms scare him. She worries about his health.
Most people obey fireworks laws, said acting Fire Marshal Stuart Bevis. “But there are inconsiderate people out there who buy the big, illegal stuff and set it off — sometimes as late as 3 a.m.”
Lots of people like that, he said.
“I have a large number of people who tell me they want everything big that is legal in the state,” Bevis said.
“This is a national holiday for celebration, and the traditional way to celebrate is fireworks,” Bevis said. “It’s all a balancing act. We’ve also had many calls where there are some people who can be very considerate of their neighbors — and yet their neighbor is still upset — because they have a dog who is a high-strung dog.”
The booms of illegal fireworks began about two weeks ago in parts of Wichita. People have taken to Facebook to complain.
Many of the complainers don’t mind the legal fireworks that Wichita allows.
“I have partook in the activity in the past with my own grandchildren,” Gifford said. “I love a good, legal, sparkly fountain.”
When some, like McKinney and Gifford, complained about their noise trauma on Wichita’s North Riverside Facebook page, other people pushed back.
On Wednesday the North Riverside Neighborhood Association executive board deleted one of the longer threads where neighbors argued.
“Although there were real concerns and sympathetic comments, it also developed into bickering, rude words, snark, and defensive arguing,” the association wrote on its Facebook page. “At this point it no longer serves a useful purpose, especially because we are heading into several nights of booms, blasts, and confusion. Complaining does not change anything; contributing ideas for real solutions can work if someone takes the responsibility to organize.”
Some law enforcement and fire department personnel have come to dread the Fourth.
“It’s stressful and frustrating,” Bevis said.
In Wichita last year, there were eight fireworks citations (regarding illegal fireworks or discharge outside of approved time), seven fireworks-related fire incidents, 630 calls to the nonemergency hotline over the holiday weekend, 2,600 calls to 911 per day over the holiday weekend (up from the typical average of 1,500 calls per day). More than 40 fireworks-related injuries were reported.
Police and fire officials cannot check out more than a fraction of the complaint calls because it’s a busy time already. “More wrecks, more calls, more crime, more activity of all kinds,” Bevis said.
People who like fireworks could avoid upsetting their neighbors if they just went to the city’s popular fireworks shows.
“On the Fourth, we have six professional fireworks shows going on in Wichita,” Bevis said. “Plenty of chances to see great fireworks.”
Wichita tried to head off trouble — and please fireworks lovers — years ago, he said. They restricted fireworks to mostly sparklers and items that can shoot no more than six feet or so.
“But Wichita is an island, surrounded by other cities — Goddard, Maize, Haysville and more — where you can buy the bigger stuff and bring it home to Wichita, the mortars that shoot flaming balls 50 to 100 feet into the air.
“Some people go all the way to Missouri and buy the more dangerous stuff — bottle rockets that are more of a fire hazard,” he said.
Sedgwick County operates a nonemergency line — 316-290-1011 — that people can call from 6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. July 1 through July 4. The number frees 911 dispatchers to better handle more pressing emergencies. Police and other officials will try to look into complaints as best they can, Bevis said.
McKinney, meanwhile, already talked to her veterinarian about Xanax for her dog.
Fireworks purchased at one of the 40 fireworks tents within Wichita’s city limits, such as sparklers, smoke bombs, mini fountains and cones that do not shoot more than 6 feet into the air, are legal in Wichita.
It is legal to shoot off approved fireworks in the city limits from 6 a.m. to midnight through July 5.
Illegal fireworks can be seized by police or fire officials, and the owner fined $2,500. For a full list of fireworks that are legal in Wichita, visit www.wichita.gov.
Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 if in need of support.
Stay with your pets to keep them calm.
If your presence isn’t enough, ask your veterinarian about medication.
Melatonin, in tablet or liquid form, is available without a prescription and will help calm a dog. Dogs under 10 pounds need 1 milligram, dogs 10-25 pounds need 1.5 milligrams, and dogs 25-100 pounds need 3 milligrams.