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Insight from West Fargo PD: Fireworks prohibited within City, ordinance, enforcement under review

Conversations have been occurring and editorials written about the use of fireworks within the city limits of West Fargo this past Independence Day. In the strict sense of the ordinance possession or discharge of fireworks within the city is a class B Misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1000 fine and/ or 30 days in jail. Listed below is the ordinance.

12-0310. FIREWORKS.

Except as provided herein, it is unlawful for any person to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, bring into this city, use or explode any fireworks.

This section does not prohibit supervised public displays of fireworks by the city, fair associations, amusement parks, and other organizations. Except when such display is given by the city or fair association within its own limits, no display may be given unless a permit therefor has first been secured.

In addition to the penalty provided by Section 12-1001, any violation of this section may result in the seizure or removal by the state fire marshal, sheriff, police officer, or local fire marshal, at the expense of the owner, of all fireworks or combustibles offered or exposed for sale, stored, or held.

Being that the Independence Day celebration occurred on a Wednesday many people were faced with returning to work on Thursday morning and were disturbed by the late night activities.This year also saw the relaxing of certain federal rules relating to the size of the explosive charge available to the public.The larger fireworks generated both larger displays and increased noise creating a concern from the public.

The past practice of the Police Department has been the relaxing of enforcement activities relating to fireworks on the 4th of July and a day or two on either side. Complaints from the public were handled by the on-duty staff. Officers would also do some self-initiated activity when they deemed it necessary for public safety. Enforcement most frequently resulted in verbal warnings but did at times include the issuance of citations and the confiscation of the fireworks. Each call was handled on a case by case basis.

The administration of the Police Department is currently reviewing both the ordinance and the department's enforcement practices. A decision will be made as to whether the current ordinance as written is appropriate or if the department will request the city commission to amend or repeal the restriction. The staff will discuss the past practice and determine what the department's position on enforcement will be for violations of the ordinance. The Department will also be presenting a public education program prior to next year's Independence Day.

The family traditions of Independence Day most frequently involve the use of fireworks on some scale. The department has always attempted to use a form of reasonable standard to allow families to maintain those traditions without interfering with the peace and good order of the community. As the community changes we are required to evaluate and modify our rules and regulations to achieve a common good. Certainly the relaxing of the federal regulation allowing larger explosives will be a factor in any decision. More information will be provided in future articles and media releases.

Be safe and enjoy the summer.