Northern Kentucky Cities Cracking Down on Fireworks

July 3, 2013

Several northern Kentucky cities are or are considering cracking down on temporary fireworks stands that pop up on roadsides as the July 4th holiday nears.

Within the past month, city councils in Edgewood and Elsmere banned the sale of fireworks outside of permanent buildings. Those cities took action after Florence officials prohibited the sale of fireworks from temporary stands last year, prompting out-of-state fireworks vendors to move north into Kenton County.

A committee of Kenton County fire chiefs also has asked officials in that county to consider countywide legislation.

Edgewood Police Chief Tony Kramer told The Kentucky Enquirer that temporary fireworks stands are like dandelions because as soon as one out-of-state vendor shuts down, another pops up in a neighboring community.

“We’re not against fireworks sales as long as vendors obey the laws,” Kramer said. “If (fireworks vendors) are in a building, we can regulate them and make sure they’re safe. This year, we’re going to keep an eagle eye out for (temporary fireworks stands) and shut them down right away.”

The stricter laws and enforcement come two years after the Kentucky General Assembly changed state law to allow the sale of larger, more powerful aerial fireworks that that enthusiasts previously had to travel south to Tennessee to buy. Kentucky’s new law allows for the sale of larger, more powerful fireworks such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and items that shoot exploding fireballs.

Last summer, the state fire marshal’s office issued a permit to an out-of-state fireworks vendor that set up tents in several Kenton County cities after the state belatedly received the required $250 fee. However, Kentucky law does not require the state fire marshal’s office to inspect temporary fireworks stands.

“The state fire marshal’s office is supposed to notify the local fire departments and give them an inventory (of fireworks at temporary stands),” said Paul LaFontaine, chief of the Elsmere Fire District. “It’s up to the local fire departments to enforce the code, conduct the inspections and make sure these vendors are operating within the letter of the law. But we get no funding to do any of that stuff.”

Florence, a regional retail center, has since prohibited temporary fireworks stands, but it allows permanent fireworks stores. However, the smaller bedroom communities of Walton and Union allow temporary fireworks sales but don’t allow fireworks to be sold from permanent stores

In unincorporated Boone County, fireworks can be sold from permanent stores and temporary commercial displays, but vendors can’t sell aerial fireworks at temporary stands. They can sell only the consumer fireworks allowed before 2011.

Last summer, Edgewood authorities shut down Indianapolis-based USA Fireworks for fire code violations and failure to get the proper local and state permits after vendors set up a tent in the Kmart parking lot.

From Edgewood, the fireworks vendor moved to Elsmere, where authorities cited USA Fireworks for failure to comply with the uniform fire code and local zoning regulations after discovering two adults and a child sleeping alongside explosive merchandise after hours. A can of diesel fuel to run a portable generator sat underneath a table loaded with fireworks.

“There were multiple electrical violations, and they were smoking inside the tent,” LaFontaine said.

While the Campbell County Fiscal Court looked at, but ultimately declined, to regulate temporary stores, a number of cities, including Cold Spring, Newport and Wilder, regulate the sale of fireworks within certain zones and subject to certain conditions.

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