Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen's proposal to lift the ban on safe and sane fireworks in the city on the Fourth of July has residents split, with some welcoming it and others worried that the fireworks could create an added problem.
The proposal is one of the first on Hansen's to-do list while serving as mayor for the next year.
"It's a traditional activity that goes part and parcel with this holiday," he said. "I love tradition, I love nostalgia, and I love things that make celebrating our independence fun for family. I know many people do not believe that, but many, if not most, do."
Several Orange County cites allow the sale of safe and sane fireworks, including Costa Mesa and Westminster. Some, like Costa Mesa, allow nonprofit organizations to sell them as fundraisers for their activities. Hansen suggested the city's Fourth of July committee could benefit from the sales because it's responsible with raising funds each year for the celebration.
Safe and sane fireworks were once legal in the city, but then banned in late 1987. A Los Angeles Times article from 1986 reported then-Fire Chief Raymond C. Picard asking the council to ban legal fireworks because of the city's large numbers of closely spaced houses with flammable wood-shingle roofs.
"I would be very cautious about proceeding with lifting the ban on the fireworks," said Councilwoman Connie Boardman. "There were good reasons to ban the sale in 1987, and I don't think they've changed."
The city's current fire chief, Patrick McIntosh, is also against lifting the ban.
"I believe that all fireworks are dangerous, and we have a long history of reducing fires and injuries associated with fireworks when they are all banned, so I would prefer we do not bring fireworks back to Huntington Beach," he said.
Because Huntington Beach is a tourist destination and the Fourth of July attracts thousands of visitors, to maintain safety Hansen said the fireworks would not be allowed at the beach or in parks, and there would be heavy administrative fines for those who break the law.
Hansen said legal fireworks would be used in residential areas where residents who want to avoid the traffic are staying and celebrating.
"As a council member, I'm pretty fortunate that I get a reserved parking space on Fourth of July," he said. "A lot of residents like to spend time in their neighborhoods with friends, family and neighbors, and have their own Fourth of July celebration."
A conversation on HBTalk, an online discussion site, about legalizing fireworks has not stopped since Hansen made the proposal after getting sworn as mayor Dec. 5.
Hansen must be willing to consider all sides before the city can move ahead with legalizing fireworks, said resident Tim Geddes on HBTalk.
Another resident who went by the name "Bill B" wrote: "We can celebrate the birth of the finest country in the world in other more appropriate ways."
Police Chief Ken Small said he's currently researching other ordinances and reviewing the recent grand jury report on fireworks in Orange County before giving his opinion on whether the city should legalize them or not.
During Monday's council meeting, the council is expected to vote to direct the city staff to come up with an ordinance.