Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Handle your fireworks with care

New vanish on the deck caught fire quickly and within minutes, my colleague’s whole house was on fire

I’ve always been surprised at how popular fireworks are on Vancouver Island.

Regularly, in the lead up to Oct. 31, I see small temporary stands set up at the side of the highway selling fireworks in anticipation of people wanting them to spice up their Halloween activities.

Where I grew up back east, fireworks were not that common and typically only used by trained professionals who pulled off large shows at special times of the year, like New Years Eve and Canada Day, to entertain big crowds.

You rarely ever saw them in the possession of regular citizens for their own private enjoyment.

So I found it rather odd when I first moved out this way decades ago and saw fireworks being fired off at numerous private celebrations that were held throughout the year.

I guess their popularity here is probably connected to Vancouver Island’s close proximity to the U.S., where fireworks are readily available and are part of the American culture. I was at one New Year’s Eve party in which many of the attendees swarmed outside just before midnight to prepare to shoot off the fireworks they had brought to celebrate the coming year.

It seemed like good fun until some of the more inebriated party goers started shooting their fireworks haphazardly into unintentional places, like under the eaves of neighbouring houses and under cars parked along the road.

I was amazed that some of the houses and cars didn’t catch fire and was astounded that this was allowed at all.

In fact, one of my work colleagues had a Halloween party in which fireworks were shot from her newly varnished deck and one of them made a complete 180 degree turn shortly after gaining altitude and slammed back into the deck with flames going everywhere.

The new vanish on the deck caught fire quickly and within minutes, my colleague’s whole house was on fire and burned to the ground.

Each year, there are also numerous reports of people, here and abroad, blowing their fingers and/or hands off due to mishandling fireworks.

These are, no doubt, dangerous pieces of entertainment that must be handled with delicacy and care.

In 2017, the Municipality of North Cowichan decided to join the Cowichan Valley Regional District in restricting the use of fireworks to just three times a year — Jan. 1, July 1, and Oct. 31 — with requests for other dates to be approved by the municipality’s CAO or his designate.

North Cowichan’s new fireworks bylaw also prohibits the sale of fireworks in the municipality, which explains the fireworks booths set up on the highway outside the municipality’s jurisdiction, and prohibits possession and discharge of fireworks in North Cowichan without written permission from the municipal clerk.

These are, after all, explosives so it’s not surprising that local governments have stepped in to regulate their use.

Fireworks have become just as much part of many annual festivities in this area as they are in most parts of the U.S., so I suspect that banning them completely would be just about as effective as the failed, decades-long, strategy to ban marijuana.

Other than educating people on the proper use of fireworks, little can be done to banish their use.

So, enjoy them when you can use them, but treat your fireworks with the care and respect they deserve.

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