GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Mayor George Heartwell thinks the new law allowing people to own and use consumer grade fireworks is "silly," and made it clear he doesn't think people shooting them off in these hot and dry conditions is a good idea.
There's a big difference, he said, when the city sets off fireworks -- as they will at night on the 4th of July -- because firefighters are on hand. Most of the time when people set off fireworks, he said, no one is around to help.
"When you're down watching the fireworks [downtown], you look up at the buildings across the river, you see fire units there to address any problems," said Heartwell. "When you light a bottle rocket off in your backyard, there isn't a firefighter at the house next door or the house two doors down to ensure that if a fire starts it's quickly put out."
It's written directly into the state law that local governments cannot prohibit citizens from setting off fireworks the day before, the day of and the day after national holidays.
"Even if we thought that the city was going to burn down around us, there's not a thing we can do to ban [the fireworks]. It requires and act of the governor as a result of this silly legislation," he said Tuesday. "I find that a bit distressing taking that kind of control away from local government."
Since the city can't stop people, Heartwell took the time to plead for people to do set off fireworks responsibly since "the law and the governor decided it's just fine, thank you, to ignite fireworks under these tinderbox conditions."
He was hoping Gov. Rick Snyder would issue a ban on the consumer grade fireworks over this holiday weekend because the potential for fire is so great. He told 24 Hour News 8 he has no idea why Snyder didn't.
When asked if he thought it was irresponsible, Heartwell paused a while before answering.
"Next question," he said.
Even though the potential is there, representatives from the Grand Rapids Fire Department told 24 Hour News 8 they simply don't have the funds to pay firefighters overtime to have more crews on the street. The fire department will have crews at the downtown fireworks celebration and will also have crews covering the rest of the city, but there will not be extra crews.
It's a sentiment Heartwell echoed.
"We're in the process of looking at every nickel we spend and there is no money for police and fire overtime so it means that people have to be very responsible," he said.
24 Hour News 8 called and emailed Snyder's office on Tuesday to try to get a response to Heartwell's comments.
Staffers responded with in an email with the following statement after the 6 p.m. newscast:
"The Governor relies on recommendations from resource and fire prevention officials. The MI Department of Natural Resources has not recommended a statewide or county-by-county ban on burning at this time. We and they - along with the State Fire Marshal - however, are urging an abundance of caution and the DNR is aggressively reinforcing fire dangers and prevention reminders. The DNR is also evaluating fire conditions and long-term forecasts over the next 30 to 60 days and will have updated information once those assessments are complete."
"Additionally, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and State Fire Marshal have been actively talking about new law and all the appropriate certifications and procedures that must be in place. They are also actively conducting on-site inspections."
The governor's office also provided the following links for more information:
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