Fireworks report generates some sparks at UG Committee meeting

A resident spoke out against the noise and danger of fireworks during a summary report given Sept. 25 about this year’s fireworks by the Kansas City, Kansas, fire marshal.

“I’d like to see fireworks outlawed because we have neighbors who shoot fireworks days before they are legal. Also, they shoot commercial fireworks. Even with the windows shut … we still can’t hear the TV,” said the woman, who lives on the south side of Kansas City, Kansas.

She said she was afraid of fireworks that landed in her yard that were still on fire. She is afraid her house will catch on fire, she said. She also said those around her had little regard for the rules in place for residents shooting fireworks.

The fireworks nearby were so strong that the home’s foundation shook, according to the woman’s husband.

The report was given at the Unified Government Public Works and Safety Committee meeting on Sept. 25.

John Droppelmann, Kansas City, Kansas, fire marshal, told the committee that from June 29 to July 4, there were 16 calls for fireworks-related incidents. Five emergency medical services calls responded to two hand injuries, one eye injury and two miscellaneous injuries, he said.

Droppelmann said the University of Kansas Hospital’s Burn Unit treated 15 fireworks injury patients, with the most serious burn to 40 percent of the total body surface area. There was no loss of fingers this year, compared to five the previous year, he said.

One vehicle fire was attributed to fireworks, with a loss of $2,500.

A pole fire had an estimated loss of $1,000.

A gas meter damaged by fireworks had an estimated loss of $1,200, he said.

Also, there were two explosion investigations.

In addition, there were six rubbish fires with no monetary loss. The total in property damage was estimated at $4,700, excluding medical costs from the five EMS calls.

This year, there were 41 fireworks stands in Kansas City, Kansas, Droppelmann reported. The total was down from 47 last year.

The Fire Department’s cost of regulating the fireworks stands was estimated at $11,000, not including mileage, fuel or maintenance on EMS and suppression units, he stated. The Fire Department issued five warnings for stand set-up issues.

Tracking air quality through a monitoring site at 10th and State Avenue, the Fire Department found a high in fine particulate matter on the Fourth of July and the days preceding it, which showed an increased health risk to persons exposed to the air during this time. The highest reading was 147.3 for a one-hour period. This year it was windy, so the effects were not as bad, according to Droppelmann.

The cost of cleaning up the community’s parks was estimated at $2,224.53 during the Fourth of July period.

The Street Department incurred a cost of $2,815.20 for closing streets and setting up barriers for 21 block parties in the community, which is offset from fees, according to Droppelmann’s report.

Kansas City, Kansas, collected license fees of $45,315 for the 41 fireworks stands in the community, the report stated.

Public works collected $1,680 in fees for setting up the street barricades; and there was $35,695 in estimated sales taxes, for a total of an estimated $82,690 in fees collected, less $17,328.71 in expenses to the UG. That left a balance of $65,361.29 in the UG’s favor, he said.

The Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department responded to eight fireworks-related complaints, filed one report and issued one warning, as well as made 1246 checks of the Wyandotte County parks, the report stated.

Additionally, the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department responded to 240 fireworks-related complaints from June 29 to July 5. There was no data available from the Police Department to determine if a warning or summons was issued, Droppelmann’s report stated.

Estimated total expenses for the Fire Department, with property damage, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works were $20,739.97, according to the report. The total did not include patient medical costs, EMS transport costs, deferred inspection costs or additional costs to the Police Department.

Droppelmann said he had a complaint about illegal sales through the internet of fireworks, but it turned out to be in Shawnee, Kan., at an apartment complex, so he turned it over to that city.

He also said while inspecting fireworks stands last year, he heard that someone offered $5,000 for whatever fireworks were left over on the night of July 4.

“I’m not good with that, because if somebody backs up a U-Haul trailer and hauls off 6,000 pounds of fireworks and puts it in an apartment complex or house, that’s trouble,” Droppelmann said. No more than 125 pounds of fireworks is allowed in a house, without a permit, he added.

He generated a large purchase form for fireworks stand operators to fill out, but no one returned one this year, he said.

Commissioner Angela Markley asked Droppelmann if he could get information about the call levels that Johnson County receives on fireworks, even though fireworks are illegal there. She said the UG Commission at times has considered making fireworks illegal, but that doesn’t mean fireworks will go away here if they were illegal.

Droppelmann said if Wyandotte County stops selling fireworks, people in Johnson County who now obtain fireworks here would probably just go to Missouri to get them.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook remarked that whether something is done about fireworks depends on what commissioners hear from the residents. She said the $65,000 profit the UG made from fireworks fees and taxes was not much in the big scheme of things for the UG’s budget. She said she would like to hear from residents if they want fireworks or not.

“I’m in between on this,” she said. She added she really enjoyed fireworks as a child, but she was well-managed.

Commissioner Harold Johnson said a recent survey of residents did not show a lot of opposition to fireworks in Wyandotte County. So far, most people who have been surveyed here are in favor of fireworks, Commissioner Melissa Bynum said.

Also speaking at the committee meeting was Patrick Soptic, a retail fireworks stand operator with Joe’s Fireworks.

“No matter what, fireworks are going to be in the city,” he said.

How many police and fire calls would there be if all fireworks were banned, he asked. Residents would still be able to get fireworks in Missouri at Riverside or other places.

He said all the fireworks stand operators he knows comply with the UG’s directives on what types of fireworks are banned, such as bottle rockets and sky lanterns.

If all fireworks were illegal in Kansas City Kansas, people would go elsewhere and buy them, he said.

“We hear gunshots around the clock in Wyandotte County, people aren’t afraid to fire off their firearms in Wyandotte County, people aren’t afraid to go get their alcohol, their narcotics, whatever else. What’s going to stop them from picking up fireworks?” Soptic asked.

There would be twice if not 10 times the amount of police calls, he added.

Also, Soptic said with his four fireworks stands, he has never had anyone come in and offer to buy all their fireworks for $5,000. Most fireworks stand owners would not do that because they already have proper fireworks storage arranged and on file with the fire marshal, he added.

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4 comments

  1. Venesa Ingold-Leach says:

    We have been celebrating Independece Day at this house for over 60 years without incident. My grandparents owned this house before I bought it. Generations have been taught the proper and safe way to celebrate using fireworks and still are. Our neighbors join in the fun and fellowship.

  2. Brad Isnard says:

    I completely understand those who don’t want to be kept up at night the week before and after the 4th, but there is no good way to enforce a culture change of this magnitude. Are we going to pull all of KCKPD off of the violent crime calls they are on to respond to Billy shooting off roman candles down the road? No. We need to focus on corralling people into more acceptable places to use fireworks to reduce the risk. Places like the Washington HS parking lot are not sanctioned, but are well known places to go where it is both safe and ok with neighbors if fireworks are used. The cleanup is also much easier when it’s condensed into lots like this. We should be encouraging people to go to these places and provide cleanup services.

    • Alana Rock says:

      My husband was a Head Custodian for several years at a KCK elementary school. The playground was used every July 4th by the neighborhood. Guess who had to clean up the mess? The neighbors? No, my husband and his night custodian. So, basically a day of summer clean up was wasted cleaning up after the neighborhood trashed school property. Every year. He is now retired and yes, it is still happening. School employees should not be responsible for cleaning up the fireworks mess of the neighborhood. I say ban fireworks in KCK for good!

  3. John Gaupp says:

    Do you think someone who sells fireworks would want to ban them? H—, no. People shoot sooner and later every year. They should have been banned years ago. Make the fines bigger. When you call the police, they say they have so many calls they will try to get someone out. To me, that means they should be banned.

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