The board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District has directed staff to write a report on the use of fireworks in the region, and how best to deal with them.
The issue arose at the board meeting on Oct. 27 when the Town of Ladysmith successfully requested that the town be permitted to discharge fireworks on Nov. 25 this year as part of the town’s Light Up events, and the Sunday directly preceding BC Day for Ladysmith Days in 2022.
While the board gave the green light to Ladysmith to discharge fireworks on those two days, broader issues around their use were raised at the table, which led to the motion for the staff report.
Lori Iannidinardo, director for Cowichan Bay, said she has already received emails about missing dogs and disturbed livestock on farms in her area as Halloween closes in.
She said the CVRD deals with air quality in the region and toxic substances are emitted from fireworks that are left in the environment.
“I know some people may think this is nit-picking, but we have to show leadership and find better ways to do things,” Iannidinardo said.
“I’m not against celebrations in the community, but we have to change with the times.”
Fireworks are only allowed with a permit three times a year — Halloween, New Year’s Eve and July 1 — within the CVRD, unless special permission is granted.
Also, according the district’s bylaws, no one is allowed to sell fireworks within the district and it’s not permitted to discharge them within 500 metres of a livestock property.
Board chairman Aaron Stone, who is also mayor of Ladysmith, said there has been fireworks going off every day recently in the North Oyster/Diamond area where he lives, and there is no adequate ability to regulate and enforce the rules under the existing bylaw.
Mike Wilson, director for Cobble Hill, said he’s torn on how the district should move forward on the issues around fireworks.
He said he personally likes fireworks, as do many kids and parents, but acknowledges that there are problems with them as well.
“The amount of light and noise fireworks produce effects the migration of birds and [the behaviour of] many farm animals,” Wilson said.
“I would like to see a staff report on it.”
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the fundamental issue the CVRD must consider is the availability of fireworks in the district.
He said he has no problems with community fireworks at special events in which they are professionally handled.
“Those are great, but as long as we have temporary set-ups [selling fireworks] that don’t even have business licences because they are often not in our jurisdiction but on reserve lands, we’re going to have problems,” Siebring said.
“They’re not illegal and people will buy and use them. By the time bylaw officers get to where they are being used, the fireworks are often out so enforcing the bylaw can be impossible at times. I’d like to see the issue of availability addressed in a staff report.”
Sierra Acton, director for Shawnigan Lake, said the issue is complex.
She said it feels to her that the CVRD is moving more backward than forward by adding more days that people can discharge fireworks in the district.
“I hope to see something about this in our modernized official community plan because, perhaps, it’s an issue the community should have a chance to discuss,” Acton said.