Sign of the times: Stop illegal fireworks

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Illegal fireworks have filled the skies for weeks across the city, causing restless nights for some and sending dogs scurrying under beds.

Neighbors say they complain, but Grand Rapids police do little about it.

Now, one Grand Rapids neighborhood is trying to stop them.

The Garfield Park Neighborhood Association, in the Burton Street and Eastern Avenue area, is handing out signs to neighbors that list rules for lighting fireworks.

They include rules specific to the Fourth of July: They can be fired off only from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. June 29 through July 4. They can’t be fired off from public streets, sidewalks and rights-of-ways, or at parks, churches or schools.

The fine: $1,000.

The problem is — and you can ask just about anyone — not many follow these rules. And police don’t routinely enforce them.

“The Grand Rapids Police Department has expressed to me and to others that addressing the fireworks situation is a low priority,” said John Fetter, who lives in the Garfield Park neighborhood. “That’s why we’re taking matters into our own hands.”

A yard sign informs neighbors when they may use fireworks. (June 21, 2021)

News 8 requested illegal fireworks enforcement statistics from Grand Rapids police on Monday, but department spokesman Sgt. Dan Adams said he couldn’t turn them around that quickly.

He said police prefer education over enforcement.

“Responding to illegal fireworks complaints puts an unnecessary burden on the GRPD’s already limited resources,” Adams said in an email.

So, Fetter came up with the sign idea.

“I have a neighbor who has PTSD and they’re in the process of moving,” in part because of fireworks, he said.

Fireworks last year pushed Fetter and his dog out of their home and into a quieter neighborhood.

“Oh yeah, we had to get out of here,” Fetter said. “Actually, I’m getting out of here this year.”

“I’m all for fireworks, don’t get me wrong, I love fireworks, if they’re controlled within the manner they were intended to be.”

Fran Dalton, of the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association, said it’s the fireworks going off all hours of the day and early into the morning that set off neighbors.

“They’re not necessarily going off when they’re supposed to,” she said. “I’ve actually been hearing them on a regular (basis) since the past month and a half, I think.”

She ordered 100 signs and has handed out about 20 so far.

She said she’ll deliver signs to anybody in the neighborhood who wants them.

“So, here’s the rules,” she said, holding up a sign. “Now people, let’s follow them.”

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