By Ron VandenBoom
The Havre Police Department is experiencing an increasing number of reports that fireworks are being set off within the city limits and at least two reports of fireworks related fires have so far been reported.
One fire near Eagles Park in Havre led to charges against one juvenile for negligent arson, criminal mischief/vandalism, and discharging fireworks within the city limits.
Fines and charges can be filed against people caught violating the city ordinance banning fireworks within the city limits, said Capt. Mark Stolen, of the Havre Police Department.
Stolen said calls received by the Havre Police Department have also started to create backlog problems for officers.
"This many calls prevent officers from working on other investigations," he said, adding that the department will however enforce the law whenever and wherever they can.
"What we really need is for parents to supervise their children," Stolen said.
All fireworks, including the more benign sparklers and firecrackers, are outlawed within city limits.
Stolen noted that parents, as well as juveniles, could be charged with crimes such as disorderly conduct and criminal mischief if these or other laws are broken.
It is legal to light fireworks outside the city limits, but it is also important to remember to get the permission of the land owner before fireworks are used on private property.
Hill County Sheriff Tim Solomon reminds area residents that it is illegal to use fireworks in Beaver Creek Park but legal in other parts of the county providing the user has a landowner's permission if on private property.
He also said that due to extremely dry conditions, people setting off fireworks should be very careful not to start grass fires.
Solomon added that it would also be a nice jester for users to clean up there litter after setting off their fireworks.
Safety and the prevention of fires are the primary concern of the Havre Fire Department and Assistant Fire Chief, Dave Sheppard, notes that it is extremely important for people to know the difference between legal consumer fireworks and a dangerous explosive device.
"Items such as M-80s, M-100s, and blockbusters are not fireworks," he said. "They are federally banned explosives."
He noted these devices can cause serious injury or even death.
"Stay away from anything that isn't clearly labeled with the name of the item, the manufacturer's name, and instructions for proper use," he said, adding that fireworks are not toys and must comply with strict regulations enacted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
He also cautions against the use of homemade devices made by mixing chemicals from other legal fireworks together.
"Leave the making of fireworks to the experts," Sheppard said.
Sheppard also noted that young children should never be allowed to use fireworks without adult supervision and that they should only be allowed to use fireworks purchased from known and reputable dealers.
"Use good common sense and always read and follow the directions," he said.
Safety tips issued by the Fire Department include:
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person;
- Have an adult present;
- Put used fireworks in a safe noncombustible container;
- Only use fireworks outdoors, away from homes, dry grass, and trees;
- Light only one item at a time and keep a safe distance.