GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A knock at Emily Huff's apartment door came about 5 p.m. Monday. The garage behind her home on Jackson NW in Grand Rapids was on fire.
"Flames were coming out of the top of the garage and smoke was going everywhere," said Huff.
Fireworks were to blame for setting fire to the garage, making it a close call for Huff and her three children.
"If the fire had gotten any bigger it could have gone to the grass, 'cause there's not much distance between the garage and the house," she said.
Firefighters gained control of the fire before the blaze spread to surrounding areas.
Around the same time, the mix of tinderbox conditions and a general lack of common sense struck Mary Waters Park at Leonard and Lafayette near downtown Grand Rapids when fireworks burned a large area of the grass and approached East Leonard Elementary School.
Twenty firefighters kept the fire from hopping from the trees onto the school property. Investigators found fireworks at the fire's point of origin, but none of the kids they've spoken with admit firing them.
The fire changed the landscape of the park.
"These conditions, the grass and the vegetation is almost like igniting gasoline," said Grand Rapids Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Salatka. "You get a slight wind pushing it and it just travels with great speed."
Salatka also told 24 Hour News 8 the GRFD responded to 17 fireworks-related fires on July 3-4-5. He urged residents "to use common sense" when using fireworks, especially in these extremely dry conditions.
In the wake of these and other fires, Grand Rapids police have adopted a strict enforcement policy against fireworks violators, but they have to catch them first.
"And that's difficult," said GRPD Capt. Peter McWaters. "We'll get a call and by the time we get there, you know, the fireworks are over. We can't tell who did it."
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell made his frustration over the lifting of the state's ban on many fireworks clear last week. Fireworks caused the blaze that burned down St. Mary Magdalen Church in Kentwood.
Heartwell said he and Kentwood's mayor cornered Lt. Gov. Brian Calley Monday to ask for help amending the law to give local communities more control over fireworks.
"I pray it's not going to take a loss of life before something is done at the state level," said Heartwell.
It's unclear how much money the state will collect from the now-legal sale of consumer grade fireworks. But it is a new source of state revenue.
When asked if Gov. Rick Snyder will listen to local officials about their fireworks concerns, Heartwell said, "That remains to be seen."
Fire officials reminded the public of the ordinance Grand Rapids enacted about the use of fireworks. It reads, in part:
Section 9.907. Use of Consumer Fireworks Prohibited.
No person shall ignite, discharge or use consumer fireworks in the City; except this prohibition shall not preclude any person from igniting, discharging or using consumer fireworks within the City on the day proceeding, the day of, or the day after a national holiday, consistent with Act 256.
24 Hour News 8's Amanda Jarrett contributed to this report.
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