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Alberta chiefs call for ban on family fireworks


June 20, 2008
By Alberta Fire Chiefs Association

June 16, 2008, Bonnyville, Alta. – RCMP are looking for tips after someone stuffed a firework into a drunken man's pocket, setting him on fire. About 1:30 a.m. on May 4, a Bonnyville Mountie on patrol in Glendon, 210 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, came across a man who was on fire. The man had just left the local hotel and was drunk, said police, when someone put a lit firework in his back pocket.


The firework set his coveralls on fire and caused third-degree burns to a large part of his body.

 

He was hospitalized and is recovering slowly.

 

“This is a prime example of the abuse and danger from so-called family fireworks that have become so easily available in Alberta” said AFCA President Brian McEvoy.  “We don’t want to have to wait for a death like the one that resulted in the prohibition of fire crackers to see this issue addressed” 

 

The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association has noticed an increasing trend in abuse of the possession and discharge of family fireworks which results in fires, both unintentional and intentional, as well as personal injury to Albertans. This issue was addressed in a resolution at AFCA’s 2006 conference in June and taken to the Minister of Municipal Affairs Ray Danyluk. Mr. Danyluk has directed his department to investigate and bring forward changes to address this issue.

 

There is a pending survey and consultation being undertaken by the safety services group within Alberta Municipal Affairs to determine the correct course of action for Alberta. The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association believes the sale, possession and use of family fireworks within Alberta should be prohibited. This will not affect the use of high-hazard fireworks by professionals during major events such as Canada Day, the Calgary Stampede or local events in smaller centres. This action will drastically reduce injuries as well as fires.

 

The AFCA has been lobbying around this issue and has asked the province to make changes in the 2006 Alberta Fire Code (published in 2007) to help deal with concerns; changes were made to the 2006 (2007) Fire Code.

 

The Alberta Fire Code has very specific requirements for the safe use of family fireworks:

§         It prohibits their discharge in a place or manner that creates a danger or constitutes a nuisance to any person or property.

§         It prohibits their discharge on a highway, road allowance, public beach or park without permission of the Fire Department.

§         It prohibits their discharge on privately owned land unless the person discharging first obtains the written consent of the owner or occupant of the land or the owner or occupant of the neighbouring lands. 

§         It prohibits their discharge within 10 meters of any building, tent, trailer, canvas shelter or motor home. 

 

If a municipality has an approved fire quality management plan and fire safety codes officers with powers designated under the act they can enforce the Fire Code. If they don’t have this in place, which much of Alberta doesn’t, then the responsibility for enforcing the Fire Code falls to the staff of the Alberta Fire Commissioner’s Office in which there are limited resources.

 

Due to limited resources at the Alberta Fire Commissioner’s Office, the requirement for a permit for fireworks under the safety codes act was changed in the AFC 2006 and permission for fireworks is now required from the fire department. This permission would be issued outside the authority of the Safety Codes Act so areas that are under provincial jurisdiction would not require the province to use safety codes officers to deal with fireworks.

 

In the Appendix to the Alberta Fire Code the Province recommends that municipalities regulate fireworks under a municipal bylaw established using the authority of the Municipal Government Act. This way the fire departments and municipal bylaw officers can deal with issues and not have to worry about having any authority under the Safety Codes Act. However, many fire departments are reluctant to provide permission for fear of inheriting the liability if the untrained person using the family fireworks causes a fire or injury.

 

Under the Safety Codes Act, the province has adopted the Alberta Fire Code to regulate the sale, possession and use of fireworks yet recommends that municipalities use a different provincial act to actually deal with fireworks at the local level. 

 

The 2006 Fire Code was supposed to clean up the issue of fireworks in Alberta.  What it has done is made it even more confusing for municipalities and fire services to deal with.  The danger of family fireworks has not been reduced nor has it been recognized.  It has only been removed from the province’s risk portfolio and transferred to each and every municipality with or without a fire quality management plan.

 

For more information contact Bill Purdy, AFCA executive director at 780-719-7939.