Halloween in Port Moody will be less explosive in the future.
Council unanimously voted to ban all firework sales and mandate year-round permits for firework users starting Nov. 1, 2023.
“Fireworks are unregulated and uncontrolled. It is becoming much more challenging to enforce and manage for the simple reason of one’s ability to purchase fireworks online,” said Kirk Heaven, Port Moody’s deputy fire chief.
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The policy amendment, which was recommended by Port Moody Fire Rescue (PMFR) on July 18, will shift Port Moody away from being one of the most unregulated firework communities in the region.
Previously, sale of consumer fireworks were legal from Oct. 24 to 30, and their use was unrestricted on private property on Halloween night.
Port Moody, West Vancouver, and the District of North Vancouver are the only communities in the Lower Mainland which allow fireworks sale and use. Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam allow their use but not sales, while 12 other municipalities have an outright ban.
Heaven said their department, Port Moody Police (PMP) and council are inundated with emails, phone calls, and social media posts voicing concern over the use of fireworks every October.
These concerns include public safety, environmental impacts, destruction of property and the policy contradicting the principals of a Fire Smart Community.
Heaven said that due to climate change, the fire danger rating was high until Oct. 20 in 2022, and while unprecedented, it is likely a continuing environmental trend.
Approximately 50 percent of dogs are fearful of the explosions. Fireworks can also be a significant stressor to residents with PTSD, Heaven said.
He added the chemical debris left behind can have negative environmental impacts, and if pets or wildlife ingest it, the effects can be fatal.
Teenagers and adolescents represent the largest proportion of firework injuries from 2011 to 2019, according to data from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), which was cited in PMFR’s report.
Burns and eye injuries to the head are the most common, followed by fingers and hands, according to CHIRPP, with 73 percent of injuries need medical treatment and 11 percent require admission to hospital.
The city was issuing an average of two business licences a year permitting the sales of fireworks from 2004 to 2021, which increased to three in 2022.
Heaven said while it is still easy to purchase fireworks online, which doesn’t require any proof of licence or permit, cracking down on local sales was a “great start.”
PMFR’s voluntary permit program for private firework display plans had 29 residents register in 2022.
Every firework user will now be required to have a permit.
There will be no changes to the regulations for large-event firework displays, such the Glenayre Community Associations’s event, which has more stringent requirements and a permit from PMFR.
Coun. Kyla Knowles said it was time for Port Moody to catch up with its more progressive neighbours on the issue, adding many residents had been asking for a change.
“I love fireworks. But this is one of those things, I feel like in 25 years, we’re gonna look back and go, ‘Wow, I cannot believe that there used to be no restrictions,’” Knowles said.
The BC SPCA has also been calling for a policy change for a long time, Coun. Amy Lubik noted, adding the air quality plummets on Halloween.
PMP Chief Dave Fleugel said he didn’t foresee any major issue with his officers enforcing the new rules, stating they always ramp up enforcement and resources on Halloween.
“I think the goal in this one is going to be the sales,” Fleugel said. “If we don’t have a lot of sales, then we shouldn’t have a lot of people breaching the bylaws.”
Coun. Haven Lurbiecki questioned whether they were underestimating residents’ ability to acquire fireworks, given the prior statements regarding the ability to purchase them online.
Mayor Meghan Lahti said the city will have to wait for staff to report back following next Halloween.
“Despite the fact that I enjoy fireworks. I know, my dogs don’t,” Lahti said. “It’ll be interesting to see the impact of this.”