City officials remind residents of laws and safety tips for fireworks revelry

By: Tiffany Esshaki, Elizabeth Scussel | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 11, 2014

To some people, fireworks may be nothing more than a noisy, pyrotechnic nuisance that prevents sleep and scares the dog into hiding.

For others, it can be an icon of independence and a salute to patriotism.

No matter your perspective on fireworks, city officials agree that it’s important to keep them legal and safe.

Cmdr. Terry Keirnan of the Birmingham police said that since Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Public Acts 256 and 257 in late 2011 — allowing consumer-grade fireworks like bottle rockets and Roman candles to be legally purchased and used in Michigan — noise complaints to the department have been on the rise the past two summers.

The basics of the law, he explained, prohibit the use of fireworks — of any kind — throughout the year except on the day before, the day of and the day following a national holiday. Purchasers need to be over the age of 18, and the products can only be ignited on private property, with the owner’s permission, away from bushes, homes and other potential fire hazards.

The law carries time constraints, as well. The ignition, discharge and use of consumer fireworks is prohibited between midnight and 8 a.m., with the exception of New Year’s Day, when ignition, discharge and use of consumer fireworks is prohibited between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m.

But as long as users abide by the law, Kiernan said, there’s little police can do to respond to the complaints.

“People call and say fireworks are going off near them, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “Especially on holidays, you just have to think of your neighbors when it comes to that stuff and be considerate.”

Kiernan said that after a certain point in the night, he suspects particularly raucous revelers could be cited under Birmingham’s noise ordinance. Other fireworks violations could result in a $500 fine or 90 days in jail.

Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Chief David Hendrickson said that during his first summer with the city in 2013, he was impressed at how little of a problem fireworks proved to be. Like last year, his officers will be doing their best to warn residents about the dangers of fireworks so everyone can have a safe holiday, he said.

“We just drive around and try to educate people. We pass the ordinance out and try to keep them safe. We did have people using fireworks, but they were real cooperative, and we didn’t have to issue any citations,” said Hendrickson.

Things are actually staying pretty quiet in Bingham Farms and Franklin, as well, according to Fire Chief Tony Averbuch, but he still wants to spread the message of safety.

“Fortunately, we’ve had very few firework-related incidences in Bingham Farms and Franklin,” Averbuch said. “Two or three years ago we had an incident of smoldering in dry leaves that had fallen, but no issues with things blowing up.”

Averbuch credits the canopy as being a deterrent for fireworks ignition in the cities.

“Our biggest issue is the number of trees. You need to think about where it’s going when you shoot it, and there just isn’t enough clear space for residents to feel safe lighting them off,” he said. “My biggest piece of advice to residents is to be careful with the storage of your fireworks, and obviously when you’re lighting them off. People don’t set out intending to cause harm, but unfortunately, these things can quickly spiral out of control. Bad things happen when people don’t think.”

Chief Dan Roberts of the Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Department penned a brief message to residents about the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act that was emailed to those on the village’s notification list.

Like Kiernan and Hendrickson, his goal is to educate residents on the ins and outs of the fireworks law so users know what’s allowed and what are best practices, so they can stay safe even when officers aren’t around to regulate.

Regulating fireworks purchases should be easy for local officers — according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website, there are no licensed fireworks retailers in the Eagle’s coverage area.