City Council Committee talks firework enforcement


MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula City Council members sat down to discuss how the city handles fireworks. It's been three weeks since the fourth of July, but they're already planning for next year.

The Public Safety and Health Committee heard from the fire chief and the police chief Wednesday, they also gave the public the chance to bring their opinions to the issue.

There didn't seem to be a question of whether fireworks are a concern for many Missoulians, after all almost 200 fireworks complaints came in the night of the 4th.

The question is what changes (if any) should be made to Missoula's fireworks ordinance.

For Councilman Dick Haines, Independence Day is something that seems like it's slipping away.

"We don't say Merry Christmas anymore, we say Happy Holidays. I think we still need to recognize that fireworks are part of our celebration," he said.

Councilwoman Marilyn Marler agreed, celebrating America's Birthday is important, but she was less than pleased with the response from the city this year when it came to Missoulians and fireworks.

"I have not seen any progress at all and in fact this 4th of July seemed even worse," said Marler.

More than 140 calls came in from Missoula residents concerned about fireworks in their neighborhood and not one citation was handed out.

And Councilman Dave Strohmeier says that's nothing new.

"We've been trying the same approach for literally years," he said.

Police Chief Mark Muir had an answer.

"It's not because the officers are lazy. It is because the officers don't want to be seen as the heavy handed bad guys are who are un-American," he said.

But for some that answer wasn't good enough. They want heavier enforcement and that includes citations.

"Our neighborhood is very bad with projectile fireworks. I'd like to see that end," said Missoula resident Mindy Opper.

Others suggested specific times and locations where folks could shoot off fireworks in the city.

"Allow fireworks on a specific day or days and at specific times with restrictions," said fireworks stand owner Debbie Clevidence.

Others still don't want anything to do with fireworks at all.

"All that apparently goes out the window on Missoula Montana every July 4, public and private property and general safety is put at risk," said Missoula resident Tate Jones.

The discussion lasted about an hour, and could have gone longer, so the committee decided to leave the discussion open with plans to revisit again soon.

They're also asking for additional comments on the issue. To get in touch with your city council member click here.