The Cariboo Regional District is asking the provincial government to apply an act which prohibits setting off, selling or giving fireworks outside of the period from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1 in the rural areas of the CRD.
The act includes cannon crackers, fireballs, firecrackers, mines, Roman candles, skyrockets, squibs, torpedoes and any other explosive designated as a firework by regulation.
CRD director Al Richmond says he’s heard from many CRD residents about implementing a ban.
“There are a lot of people requesting us to do something about people setting off fireworks in the middle of the summer when it’s dry, and that was even before the fires. That continued with some public meetings we had in the South Cariboo and phone calls we’ve had,” he says.
He explains municipalities usually already have bylaws in place to restrict the sale and setting off of fireworks. This new ban would apply to those in the CRD.
Richmond says the provincial act is the quickest way they can get a ban in place for the summer.
“This is provincially written legislation. If we want to get something in place for summer, which is what people’s concerns are, this is the only way we could do something,” he says.
“If the province grants us permission, from there I think we can see how we can get it to work, and make some changes [to the rules]. But for now it’s the only tool we can apply.”
Organizations will still be able to apply for a permit to hold fireworks displays throughout the year, with the written permission of the fire commissioner or a local assistant of the fire commissioner who has jurisdiction in the fire district where the public display is held.
The Billy Barker Days Society, which usually hosts a fireworks display at the close of the Billy Barker Days festival, has decided to move to a laser show this year instead. The announcement comes ahead of any fireworks legislation being put in place.
Last year, bans were put in place to restrict fireworks being set off, but not sold.
“We hire a professional company from Calgary that comes in and sets them off for us. We weren’t able to set them off last year with the bans, so we set them off in December instead to fulfill the contract,” says Clovis Tousignant, who volunteers with the society.
“There’s too much uncertainty so this year we decided to go with the laser show instead,” he says.
Fellow volunteer Cindy Tousignant says it’s also a decision the society made for safety reasons.
For Victor and Theresa Olson, who own Fireworks Warehouse in Cinema, B.C., the ban will have dire consequences.
Their store is just inside the boundaries of the CRD, and if the act is put in place, Victor says they will shut down their business.
“We sell other things too, but that’s the biggest part of our business,” he explains.
The couple aren’t happy with the development, after selling fireworks for close to 30 years.
“How many fires were started last year with fireworks? None. They were started with cigarettes and lightning. Are they going to ban cigarettes?” asks Victor.
Victor says he and his wife have always been as responsible as possible when selling fireworks, and during the ban on setting off fireworks last summer, they made sure to question anyone who came through.
“Young people would come in and we told them fireworks were banned [from being set off] and they said, ‘We won’t get caught.’ So we wouldn’t even sell them to them. Because we don’t want our place burned down either. We questioned people. We were as responsible as we could be about it.”
The ban will be lifted for a week over Halloween, but Victor says he won’t be opening for that week if these rules come into play.
“I’m not going to spend money to have fireworks sitting here. It costs us for insurance. So we will just close,” he says.
Victor says his store supplies fireworks to the City of Quesnel for displays at Christmas and the Winter Carnival, and also supplies Barkerville with fireworks for their displays over the season.
He notes that smaller shops in Hixon, which is outside of the CRD but only a few minutes down the road from Cinema, will still be able to sell fireworks.
“The stores in Hixon sell smaller stuff. We have the better family fireworks – up to 100 shots, and that kind of thing,” he says.
CRD director Richmond says if the regional district receives permission from the province to use the legislation, they will act quickly on it.
“It may take some time for the province to get us an answer,” he says.
“This isn’t about stifling [the use of fireworks] for public events, but it will stop the average person from buying them and stop them getting in the hands of minors.”