This year, the Iowa Legislature finally made fireworks legal in the State of Iowa between June 1 and July 8 this summer. This included sales and use of consumer fireworks, including bottle rockets, roman candles, fire crackers and more.
Many cities throughout the state jumped to put an ordinance in place, breaking away from the state law with some cities putting stricter time limits on fireworks usage and sales and some cities banning them within city limits altogether.
The City of Adel simply left their existing ordinance in place, which restricts the use of any fireworks within city limits unless the user has special permission from the city, with a permit and proof of insurance.
Even though fireworks were banned in the City of Adel this year, Adel Chief of Police Gordy Shepherd said that between June 9 and July 7, the Police Department received 28 calls where the lighting off of fireworks was investigated. Eighteen of those calls were on July 2-4.
“It was more than we’d had in that same month span than we’ve ever had, but on the scale of things, it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Shepherd said.
While Adel kept fireworks completely banned in the city, the City of Perry allowed fireworks to be shot off from 4-11 p.m. on the Fourth of July. The Perry Police Department had 56 calls regarding fireworks usage, starting primarily on June 16, and Perry Chief of Police, Eric Vaughn, said he thinks there were many more complaints that could have been made.
Vaughn said that tracking down fireworks users became tiring throughout the month leading up to the Fourth of July.
“I think it was difficult for the officers,” Vaughn explained. “Some of the neighbors didn’t want to make that phone call, but I think officers had a difficulty of tracking them down or where the firework was at; I know it took a lot of extra time what the officers were doing so they weren’t able to attend to other things.”
Shepherd also said that he knew there were many other instances happening than were called in, but that sometimes they would stop and talk to others that were shooting off fireworks on their way to other fireworks calls.
Shepherd said that there was misinformation floating about, as many in Adel thought that fireworks were legal.
“People were saying that ‘I went to the fireworks place and and bought it and they said yeah you can shoot them off,’” Shepherd said.
“There was just a lot of misinformation out there, leading people to believe that, since it was passed in the State, they could go ahead and shoot them off.”
The Adel Police Department did not issue any citations for fireworks use this year and Shepherd said it was mainly because of the misinformation about the law that was out there.
“We took it upon ourselves to have a real soft touch and be able to educate people and it was very well received,” Shepherd said. “We didn’t have any issues… officers were given the leeway of citing somebody if they felt it necessary, any issues, and they didn’t, so things went pretty smoothly.”
Whether or not they take that soft touch approach into next year is going to depend on how the laws change during the next legislative session.
“I suppose next year’s going to look a lot different with the law makers, once they get involved,” Shepherd said. “If it stays the same, if nothing else changes and the city doesn’t change their ordinance, then it will be more of a harder hand, if you will.”