Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fireworks Fanatics Among Us

In his column today, "Don't Forget To Douse", Daily Pilot writer and self-professed knucklehead Steve Smith goes right to the heart of the fireworks issue in Costa M

I have to give Smith credit for acknowledging his knuckleheadness, particularly since he has been trying to tell us how to live our lives and raise our children for many years. It took guts to tell the Daily Pilot readers of his
boneheaded move that resulted in melting his trash can and threatening his neighborhood. It takes real chutzpah to think that, by admitting his stupidity, he can justify continuing the sales and discharge of fireworks in Costa Mesa.

Early in his column Smith pontificates that, because there were so few calls for service to the Fire Department, it demonstrates tha
t fireworks are safe. He says, "If you have opposed the sale of fireworks in Costa Mesa, you should be big enough today to say, 'I was wrong.'" He tells us that we shouldn't punish the "99.99% of law-abiding citizens" for the transgressions of a few who misuse fireworks, including illegal fireworks.

Well, I am one who feels we should stop selling fireworks in Costa Mesa and pass an ordinance that specifically forbids the discharge of ANY fireworks in our city - an ordinance that has teeth in it. Several years ago a garage that abuts our property was burned to the ground over one Independence Day holiday by a thoughtless youth with so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. Only the alert response by another neighbor, who hosed down our garage until the fire department arrived, kept that fire from destroying our home.


I know we'll hear fro
m those, including many of my friends and neighbors, who feel that shooting off fireworks is some kind of God-given right. We'll hear from those who think that's it's just plain anti-American to forbid fireworks sale and discharge in our city. We'll hear from the parents who, in four days of fireworks sales, earn more than their entire year's budget for their specific youth sports programs. Others will complain that we don't need a law to forbid fireworks - that we have too many laws abridging our freedoms already. I've heard it all before and really do understand those viewpoints.

It was not too long ago that sparklers, a staple of Independence Day celebrations in my youth, were removed from the list of "safe and sane" items that cou
ld be used in our city. The 2000 degree heat generated by a sparkler, and the spitting of hot metal fragments that form the "sparkle", were deemed to be too dangerous to children, so were banned.

My wife and I spent the holiday in a small town on the Central Coast where fireworks are specifically forbidden because of the extreme danger of forest fires. The smallest spark could destroy the town. In exchange for that prohibition this little burg puts on an all-day party at a local seaside park - with music, dancing, games, food and drink - and which culminates in a wonderful professional fireworks show fired out safely over the ocean. This day-long party, sponsored by the local Lions Club, draws residents and tourists alike by the thousands and raises money for many youth programs - and keeps the community safe. That seems like a solution worth pursuing in Costa Mesa.


Smith doesn't have the Costa Mesa knucklehead market cornered. Upon returning home last weekend we heard that our Costa Mesa neighborhood, which held it's own block party again this year, had a damper put on the otherwise outstanding, fun-filled festivities by the knuckleheaded performance of one member of the neighborhood. Anecdotal reports tell us that this person endangered lives and property by misusing what appeared to be illegal fireworks - so much so that many neighbors retreated to their homes for safety. I'd run, too, if I saw Roman Candles being used like shoulder-fired missles! The police were called, but arrived an hour later - much too late to observe the activities. We're led to believe that our neighborhood was lucky to not have had serious injury to persons or property. No child was burned - no house destroyed.

In my view, it's just a matter of time until we in Costa Mesa do have a person injured or killed and/or homes destroyed by the misuse of fireworks. I don't think you can effectively police the enforcement of illegal fireworks while still allowing the sale and use of so-called safe and sane products. It's not a matter of "if", it's "when" such a tragedy will happen. Steve Smith has demonstrated that even safe and sane fireworks can be dangerous in the hands of a knucklehead.

But, I'll make you all a deal. I'll stop writing about this right now if ALL OF YOU who support the sale and discharge of fireworks will agree to attend the funeral of the child that is killed b
y fireworks in our city. I'll get off my bandwagon if you agree to visit the child in the hospital who is severely burned with fireworks. I'll stop if you can tell me that ANY youth sports program is worth the sight of a child's eye or third degree burns over his body. That's when I'll stop writing about this.

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Blogger Flo Martin said...

Too bad your neighbors retreated to the safety of their homes. Last year, I padded barefoot to the cul de sac next to ours to confront a bunch of rowdy teens firing off illegal fireworks at 10:30 at night. I told them in no uncertain terms to stop or I would call the police. I also told them if I heard more fireworks, I would return. As I left, several of the girls in the group began some pretty snide snickering (something about an old female dog), but no problemo para mi! The fireworks stopped.

7/08/2008 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and I agree on many things Goeff, but I am afraid that on this one we are about as far apart as we could get.

As to the imminent maiming and/or death of an innocent child; why are you singling out fireworks? You and I both know that the porcelain convenience in your bathroom know as the bathtub is responsible for more children’s’ deaths each year than fireworks. Why should we condone the continued installation of such devices when it is a certainty that another child will die because of them? Are we so vain a society that we are willing to kill children in the name of smelling as fresh as an Irish Spring morn'?

You certainly seem content in holding the sellers of fireworks accountable for the injuries caused by them, but you don’t mention a word about parental responsibilities. Did your parents hand you a pack of sparklers and hope for the best? Were they dyed in the wool Darwinians and believed that the human race was better off if you survived or perished as a result of you adaptability to such a perilous activity?

Come on, I am not the crack dealer on the corner and your characterization of fireworks dealers is nothing short of calling us baby killers.

Kudos for the emotionally charged imagery, in a political debate that is what works best, unfortunately it is intellectually disingenuous.

7/09/2008 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GW...You're too smart a guy to resort to emotional extortion to argue a point. How about we just place our kids in bubbles until they're adults to save them from
life's random tragedies. Or
maybe not. They might suffocate in there.

7/09/2008 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Well, this is turning out to be fun... I suspect the old Daily Pilot hit counter is going to spin off it's axis before we're done on this subject. It might have been even more interesting if the editors had not hacked out much of what I submitted to them - most of which appears in this blog entry.

Flo, thanks for your comments and your neighborhood perspective.

Byron and Bruce, I knew I would hear from you both. I respect and admire you both for your wisdom and community involvement. Your passion on this issue has been clear to me for a long time. I would much prefer that we were on the same side of this issue, but we're not.

I do understand your viewpoints - honest! I understand the positive side of youth group fund raising via fireworks sales. When you can meet your budget for the entire year in a couple days it makes financial sense. It also eliminates the need to fund-raise throughout the year. I understand all that.

I also understand the feeling of many that this is another attack on their liberties. I don't agree with it, but I understand it.

What I don't understand is why we, as a city, cannot pull together a big, professional fireworks program combined with a large Independence Day festival. It could be run by one or more service clubs - Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. - and booths could be manned by youth sports groups to raise money for their causes. Ticket sales for the show could also contribute to those groups. It could be held at the new Scott Stadium and the festival could be held adjacent at Fairview Park.

Anyhow, thanks for your views. You send them, I print them...

7/09/2008 04:24:00 PM  

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