Columbia Borough Council has taken action to restrict the use of fireworks in the borough. At its July 9th meeting, council voted unanimously to advertise its intention to adopt a fireworks ordinance (shown below) at its August 13 meeting. The ordinance will severely restrict the use of fireworks within borough limits.
According to a statement read by councilman John Novak, who is also chair of the borough's legislative committee, the proposed ordinance prohibits the lighting or discharge of fireworks on public property without permission from the borough. It also prohibits such use on private property without the express permission of the owner. In addition, fireworks may not be discharged within 150 feet of any building. The ordinance also covers all borough-owned parks, sidewalks, streets, and public buildings. The ordinance will take effect in accordance with Pennsylvania state law. According to Novak, the ordinance does not cover school district property, which is seen as private. It will be up to the district on whether or not to allow the use of fireworks on its properties. Borough Manager Rebecca Denlinger cited a state fireworks law that describes a violation of the law as a summary offense which, upon conviction, carries a maximum fine of $100.
Code Enforcement Manager Steve Kaufhold said, "This is a great ordinance. I think it's a necessary ordinance," adding that the next step will be to find a way to enforce it. Kaufhold said that a fire was caused by the discharge of fireworks on North Third Street during this year's Fourth of July holiday. The fireworks discharge originated in a second floor apartment, which subsequently burned the kitchen of a downstairs apartment, causing $15,000 damage. Kaufhold also recalled a fire at Bully's Restaurant a few years ago that was started by a single bottle rocket fired from across the street.
The proposed ordinance is a reaction to a state law enacted last year allowing the purchase of various commercial grade fireworks, and to complaints from borough residents. Novak said of the ordinance, "This has been, obviously, a concern of many of the citizens of Columbia, and the borough has recognized that position and situation, and the borough is reacting within the state laws to be able to provide guidance for the borough on how fireworks can be used."