Officials remind residents of fireworks laws
One size does not fit all when it comes to fireworks in the Flathead Valley.
Many of the larger municipalities, such as Kalispell and Columbia Falls, prohibit the sale and use of fireworks within city limits.
However, Whitefish allows both. Sales may occur there from noon to 8 p.m. on July 2-4. Fireworks may only be detonated within city limits from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 3 and 4.
Those who have complaints about fireworks can contact Whitefish Police at 863-2420. Fines for violating the city ordinance are 500 or imprisonment for subsequent offenses.
For Columbia Falls Fire Chief Rick Hagen, he prefers that people attend a public display.
“My best advice is to watch a public show,” Hagen said. “We live in an area that is very susceptible to wild fires, and every year you hear about people being injured in fireworks accidents.
“But for those that are going to set off their own, it’s important to be aware of where fireworks could end up. It’s like shooting an arrow, you just don’t know where it might land. There have been fires after they landed on rooftops, and there is plenty of dry grass underneath the green grass that could ignite.”
Hagen also said for those shooting off fireworks, they should keep a garden hose available in case something bad happens.
He also wanted to make people aware that they can be liable for damages caused by fireworks.
“That could add up to millions of dollars,” Hagen said. “Parents should be diligent and keep an eye on their kids, too. They buy the fireworks and their kids run around the neighborhood setting them off. People just need to be more careful.”
In Kalispell, city clerk Aimee Brunckhorst said that ban or no ban, people still set off fireworks.
“It’s a problem. A lot of people will do it and our police and fire departments will be busy that day,” Brunckhorst said. “A lot of people don’t realize where the city limits are. We get a lot of complaint calls because people have a Kalispell address, but they actually live in Evergreen and they don’t have an ordinance.”
Brunckhorst said if people are caught setting off fireworks in the city, they can have them taken away and be ticketed and fined.
Fines are up to the judge hearing the case and may range from 500. For fireworks complaints, call Kalispell Police at 758-7780.
State parks, fishing accesses and wildlife areas are also off limits to fireworks enthusiasts year-round. County parks in Flathead County ban fireworks, as well.
Outside of state and county parks, citizens can legally shoot fireworks on private property within Flathead County.
Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said his hope every year is that people “responsibly celebrate the Fourth of July.”
“It’s always a very busy week for our department, but we just want everyone to be safe,” Curry said. “So far, it’s been kind of quiet, but we anticipate that will change. Fortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of dry tinder out there now with the rain we’ve been getting.”
Curry said fines for violations will vary depending on the offense, which are classified as misdemeanors.
In Montana, sky rockets, roman candles and bottle rockets are illegal.
Some of the most common fireworks-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s latest report, include hand burns, eye injuries, hearing loss and various other cuts and lacerations. On average, 250 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4 holiday.
Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.