Should fireworks be banned?

The year before Sedgwick County banned fireworks in unincorporated areas, Fourth of July had firefighters running.

1978 was a dry year, and one of the "worst fireworks years" in county history, said Tim Millspaugh, fire marshal for Fire District No. 1.

"Bridges burned down," he said, adding that a fire truck also rolled over, injuring firefighters. The fire district handled 300 fire calls during a three- or four-day period, he said.

After that experience, the county in 1979 banned fireworks in its unincorporated areas — those outside city limits.

But many people didn't know that until last year, when Fire District No. 1 put up about 800 signs letting people know they could be fined if they shot off fireworks.

That prompted hundreds of calls to the fire district and commissioners, Millspaugh said Monday.

"Most seemed to be angry that they couldn't have fireworks," Millspaugh said, later adding, "I've heard people say fireworks are in the Constitution. I haven't seen that yet."

Now county officials are considering lifting the ban. Tonight, the public will have a chance to comment on three options being considered for unincorporated areas:

* Keeping fireworks illegal.

* Allowing the sale and use of limited types of fireworks, along the lines of Wichita's rules, which allow fireworks as long as they don't fly, explode or emit sparks more than 6 feet up or out.

* Deferring to state law, which makes it legal for private property owners to use all consumer-grade fireworks except for bottle rockets, sky rockets and moon rockets.

Commissioner Tim Norton said his constituents' opinions about fireworks vary.

"I think people who have farm fields and livestock maybe lean one way," Norton said. "Others who live out in the country but maybe pop them on the gravel driveway are for it, so it's kind of a mixed bag."

Norton said he was not leaning toward one option yet, but that he "was an advocate for fireworks in the city limits of Haysville when I was mayor."

People were using fireworks anyway, he said, and allowing them "made it where police weren't running all over the place on complaints."

Fireworks also provided "great revenue for Haysville because they had permits and percentage fees."

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn noted that some people still were unaware of the law.

"We've got people out there who are saying that it's just terrible what we have, that we've got to change the policy because there are too many fireworks being shot off," he said, explaining that some of his constituents were unaware fireworks were illegal in unincorporated areas.

Then there are people who think it's their right to do what they want on their private property, Peterjohn said.

"It's basically all over the place," he said.

"I have concerns about the current policy," Peterjohn said. "I hate to have a law that's not being enforced. In my mind, that's one of the worst types of laws out there. Whatever we do will be a challenge."

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