City Council committee talks fireworks laws


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula City Council is looking at some possible changes to laws about fireworks in the city.

Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir has been talking with police in Great Falls about their fireworks policy.

"They sort of define the 4th of July day itself as just being a day that's out of control," Muir said at a meeting Wednesday.

In Great Falls fireworks are allowed in the city on July 4th and a day or two leading up to it. That same idea is up for discussion in Missoula.

"Certainly on the 5th of July we get an earful as far as what has not worked," said council member Dave Strohmaier.

Missoula's current ordinance doesn't allow fireworks in the city all, but that doesn't stop some from celebrating. On average the fireworks hotline set up at the Missoula 911 center gets just over 160 calls on and around July 4.

"I just think if you try and stop fireworks all together people are still going to be doing them no matter how much we increase our enforcement efforts," said council member Adam Hertz.

That's why the city is looking at options now. Several people spoke up at the Public Safety and Health Committee meeting.

Animal control supervisor Ed Franceschina told the committee he opposes allowing fireworks in the city. He said dogs that are scared of the noise often run away, and then it's his job to take care of them.

"Dogs that would not normally leave, do leave and they end up here with us or the Humane Society -- or worse, they could end up dead," said Franceschina.

Health Department Director Jim Carlson told the committee fireworks are not only dangerous as far as injuries go, but also impact the air quality.

Missoula resident Spider McKnight urged the committee to just enforce the law that stands, prohibiting fireworks in the city. "The communities that aren't having problems are the ones that are actually enforcing their laws so I would urge us to start with that."

That feeling stuck with some committee members. Now, in addition to looking at the ordinance to allow fireworks in the city, they're also looking at what it would take to increase enforcement and citations for the current no-fireworks policy.

Within a month city police and the fire department will present an enforcement plan on how they would staff up to enforce the current no-fireworks law and what it would cost.

There's also a public hearing scheduled for May 20 for Missoulians to have a chance to share their thoughts.

For more on the ordinance and what's being proposed click here.