CARTHAGE, Mo. —
With the Carthage City Council’s vote to allow people to shoot off fireworks, Carthage now has some of the area’s most liberal regulations regarding fireworks on the Fourth of July.
The council voted 7-2 on Tuesday night to allow both the sale and discharge of fireworks from June 30 to July 5.
While Joplin, Neosho, Carl Junction and Webb City allow the shooting of fireworks inside city limits, none of the cities allows bottle rockets. Now, Carthage does.
Carthage Mayor Mike Harris said the issue of banning bottle rockets was discussed in committee, but committee members didn’t believe the restriction could be upheld.
“It would be even more difficult to enforce,” he said. “You’d have to know where (the bottle rockets) were coming from.”
Harris also noted that the town has allowed visitors for the annual Marian Days celebration in August to discharge fireworks. He said it didn’t make sense that the city “allows strangers” to shoot them, but not Carthage residents.
Despite residents’ comments opposing the shooting of fireworks — including former Mayor Jim Woestman’s display of a cardboard box of last year’s fireworks remnants that landed in his yard — the council voted to allow the discharging of fireworks inside the city limits for the first time in more than 60 years.
Councilmen John Studebaker and Charlie Bastin cast the opposing votes, with Studebaker saying he was just doing what his constituents wanted him to do.
“Most of what I heard was people wanted me to vote ‘no,’” he said. “Nearly half the city would be off-limits to fireworks.”
State law prohibits the shooting of fireworks within 600 feet of a school, church or hospital, so a large portion of Carthage is still a no-fireworks zone.
Fire Chief John Cooper said the city’s longtime ban on fireworks hasn’t always stopped people from shooting them.
“It was me riding around in a golf cart at Municipal Park with fireworks going on all around me, and I’m saying, ‘Isn’t this supposed to be illegal?’” Cooper said.
Despite the lifting of the citywide ban, Municipal Park is still a no-fireworks zone.
Carthage’s new measure includes a restriction adopted by many cities. The fire marshal or fire chief may enact a fireworks ban, similar to a burn ban, if conditions are too dry.
Joplin Fire Marshal Dale Brooks said fireworks rules can be difficult to enforce. He said the department will investigate complaints and, if necessary, confiscate bottle rockets and other fireworks beyond the approved consumer grade.
“(Bottle rockets are) so unpredictable,” he said. “The way they operate, they get lodged into the shingles, trailing a blast of sparks. They’re really good about getting into nooks and crannies, and starting fires.”
Joplin’s code allows for the sale and discharge of fireworks from noon to 11 p.m. from July 1 through 5 this year.
Scott Maness, Neosho Fire Department training officer and inspector, said Neosho’s ban on the sale and discharge of bottle rockets can be enforced. Maness said he will be busy, as it gets closer to July 4, inspecting fireworks tents and helping enforce Neosho’s laws.
“I tell them flat out, you cannot have bottle rockets,” he said.
Bottle rockets and all other fireworks can cause serious blast injuries or burns, said Dr. Karl Kauffman, an emergency physician at St. John’s Regional Medical Center.
“Bottle rockets, those can move very fast, and they can easily cause damage to the face,” he said. The tips of sparklers, he said, burn “at about 1,000 degrees or more.”
Kauffman said a large percentage of the fireworks-related injuries he has seen involved impaired judgment or movement because of alcohol.
“That’s just been my experience,” he said. “People say, ‘Let’s put this firecracker on the bottom of my beer can and take a drink out of it,’ or, ‘Let’s surprise my buddy who’s passed out.’”
Neosho has a relatively long period of legal fireworks sale and discharge, from June 20 to July 10, though officials said most stands shut down July 5. Carl Junction allows the shooting of fireworks from July 1 to 5. In Webb City, fireworks are allowed July 1 to 4.