By Tim Leeds
Local law enforcement officers have been busy with a call that's common around the Fourth of July - people setting off fireworks illegally.
Havre police officers and Hill County sheriff's deputies have been responding to calls in the last five days about fireworks, including complaints that people are setting off fireworks in their own yards, setting off fireworks that go into the caller's yard, throwing fireworks out of moving vehicles and throwing fireworks at other people.
Havre Assistant Fire Chief Tim Ranes said today the Havre Fire Department responds to numerous calls about injuries and fires caused by fireworks each year, despite a law prohibiting their use in the city.
The department hasn't had to respond to calls yet this year, "but it's early," Ranes said.
Undersheriff Don Brostrom said the only place it is legal to set off fireworks in the county is on private land with the landowner's permission. Even then, common sense should be used, he added.
It is not legal to set off fireworks on county land, including Beaver Creek Park.
The sheriff's office receives many complaints about people using fireworks every year, mostly from people complaining about noise, he said.
"The city gets inundated with calls," he added.
Havre Assistant Police Chief George Tate agreed.
"It gets progressively worse as we get closer to the Fourth. It all depends on the tolerance of the neighbors," he said.
The calls can consume a lot of the department's time, he added, and the fireworks complaints have to take a back seat if a higher-priority call comes in.
Generally, fireworks complaints are resolved fairly easily, he said. If the person using fireworks is a child, the officer will talk to the child and his or her parents, he said.
If the person is an adult, the person will be warned the first time and cited if the use continues, he said.
"As long as it's not excessive and not late at night people are usually pretty tolerant," Tate said.
A Havre ordinance prohibits any fireworks being used without the mayor's or city council's approval as a public display held by qualified people. Outside of approved displays, the law prohibits all fireworks being used inside city limits including firecrackers, toy tanks and cannons and sparklers.
The highest use of fireworks is usually during the last few days before the Fourth of July, Ranes said.
"We have a few injuries every year," he said.
He said the fire danger isn't as great this year because more precipitation has fallen than in the last few years. But there is still fuel for fires and it is still a danger, Ranes said.
Brostrom said the sheriff's office would generally cite someone for disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace if it receives a complaint, but people could also be held liable if their use of fireworks causes injury or property damage.
He said a major complaint after the Fourth of July celebration is from businesses that find the litter from people setting off fireworks.
"The (Holiday Village Shopping Center) parking lot has pretty much banned them," he said, "mainly because of the garbage and safety concerns."