Wichitans, you may begin to blow up your city-approved, 72-inch-high (better not be 73!) fireworks on Wednesday. Just remember that police officers and firefighters are patrolling our streets, looking for big boomers — and they may be watching you from a 2004 Camry.
Nine days of booms open with a new emphasis on cracking down on those who purchase illegal-to-Wichita fireworks in neighboring counties and bring them back to Doo-Dah to go Boom-Ahh.
Where in past years fireworks enforcement officers had to witness someone lighting a Roman candle, this year the City Council approved a tougher ordinance that only requires evidence of an illegal firework being lit. Property owners and parents could be lit up with $250 fines.
Many officers and firefighters will be in unmarked city cars, helping them cruise neighborhoods without sticking out like a lights-and-sirens cruiser ready to pounce on violators.
Though a tougher city ordinance is far from what Council members were considering seven months ago — allowing bigger and louder inside city limits — it’s also an example of the importance of Council members’ District Advisory Boards. Those boards reported that not only did residents not want bigger fireworks, they wanted more regulation — or total elimination of fireworks in the city.
One factor was the effect loud fireworks have on combat veterans, the elderly and pets. It wasn’t enough to get the hours of permissible fireworks to end earlier than midnight, but hey, baby steps.
So for Wichitans to steer clear of a fine, buy your fireworks in the city. But if unmarked cars aren’t a deterrent and grand displays still illuminate our skies over the next week, may I suggest setting up a police checkpoint on U.S. 400 about 10 feet inside the Butler County line next year?