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West Vancouver bans private fireworks

The move to restrict backyard fireworks brings the North Shore community in line with most others in Metro Vancouver
This images shows a selection fireworks seized by North Vancouver RCMP on Halloween in previous years. | North Vancouver RCMP

The big bang of Halloween fireworks has officially fizzled in West Vancouver.

On Monday, West Vancouver council voted to ban the sale and private use of fireworks in the municipality, bringing it in line with most other Metro Vancouver communities.

Up until now, members of the public in West Vancouver could apply for a permit to discharge fireworks from Oct. 24 to 28 and on Oct. 31 for a $5 fee.

But increasingly, politicians and fire officials have decided allowing Roman candles and screechers to be set off is more trouble than it’s worth.

According to the fire department, in the weeks leading up to and following Halloween, many public complaints are typically received, including ones for noise, concerns that gunshots have been fired, fireworks causing anxiety to household pets, environmental pollution and litter left on neighbouring properties.

In 2022, there were 29 West Vancouver Police Department files involving fireworks and there have been six so far in 2023, according to a report by Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Calder. The majority took place at schools, in parks or on roads, and five resulted in property damage. Ten of the complaints were from fireworks displays at private properties.

In response to questions from Coun. Christine Cassidy Monday night, Calder described some of the problems that have been caused by fireworks.

“We’ve had portapotties burn," he said. "We’ve had fires set against the school with propane bottles and fireworks. We’ve had people lighting fireworks off on the roof that have ignited the roof on fire.”

In banning private fireworks, “I believe the message is that we’re not condoning something that’s dangerous, not only for the individual using fireworks but also for our community,” he said.

One member of the public, Therese Reinsch, called in to council to point out the BC SPCA has long pointed out the harm done to both domestic pets and wild animals by fireworks.

“The noise from exploding fireworks can be terrifying to pets,” she said. Animals can injure themselves in an attempt to get away from the noise, and reports of lost pets typically go up whenever there are fireworks, she said.

Three people called in asking council not to ban fireworks – all of whom were involved in businesses selling fireworks.

Dayle George, owner of Big Rig Fireworks on the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver, emphasized the “tradition of celebrating with fireworks.”

Aleem Kanji, of the Canadian National Fireworks Association, told council people will continue to buy fireworks from underground sources or online.

He said many Asian and South Asian cultural festivals involve the “celebration of light over darkness,” and that fireworks have long been a part of that. Suggesting disco balls or pinatas as a substitute is “insulting” and “represents a very clear microaggression and an unconscious bias to the thousands of South Asians and Asians that observe Diwali and Lunar New Year in the city,” he said.

He added candles and stoves cause more damage than fireworks, but “there’s no provision to ban candles or stoves in the city.”

Coun. Nora Gambioli said many people have requested a ban on fireworks over the years, and since the proposed ban went public this year “we have not, to my knowledge, had a single piece of correspondence related to supporting fireworks.”

Under the proposed bylaw, fines for breaking the rules will range from $300 to $500.

Municipalities that still allow fireworks include Bowen Island and the villages of Lions Bay, Anmore and Belcarra. Fireworks are still allowed in both the District of North Vancouver and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), although both are said to be considering a ban.

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