Illegal fireworks were still an issue in Wichita over this past 4th of July holiday, despite the city’s public efforts to increase law enforcement.
This year was a kind of test for the city’s amended fireworks ordinance, which maintained a ban on professional-grade fireworks but lowered the penalty for using illegal fireworks. The intent was to make law enforcement officials more likely to hand out the $250 citation.
The city followed through on its promise to heighten enforcement: 22 patrol teams handed out nearly 140 citations, compared to zero last year. But Fire Chief Tammy Snow says results are mixed on whether the community was any safer.
“We didn’t have the resources to confiscate all the illegal fireworks," she told City Council members this week. "I went to the same home four different times because I’d take what they had right then, they’d go in and come back out and have a whole bunch more.”
There were 41 reported fire incidents over the holiday, compared to 24 in 2017, and 51 injuries, an increase of 15 over last year.
Revenue from the fines and from fireworks sales permits covered the cost of the additional patrol. Snow recommended adding more staff next year, but said there are some safety concerns.
"Firefighters are not trained in law enforcement," she said. "We aren't trained in de-escalating situations, we’re not trained in how to handle hostile environments.”
The city will look at making additional changes to the ordinance, including possibly cutting down the number of days fireworks can be used.