Resident wants more fireworks regulation in Buckhanon
BUCKHANNON — After visiting the Upshur County Commission a week prior, local resident Jan Craig asked Buckhannon City Council to consider a stronger ordinance against fireworks for next year.
“I’m here to ask city council to stop the fireworks for our vets and our pets,” she said.
In 2016, the West Virginia Legislature enacted fireworks laws and on June 1, 2017, Buckhannon created an ordinance about those fireworks and how they can be distributed, Craig said.
The city ordinance at this time allows fireworks between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on July 4, between 11 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 and between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on the Saturdays preceding and following July 4 if the holiday does not fall on a Saturday. Other times which the council may set by resolution or where prior approval of the council is not reasonably possible, by proclamation of the mayor, are also allowed.
Craig who lives on the edge of the city limits in the county believes some of the fireworks that have been happening lately are in the city limits.
She pointed to concerns for veterans who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, pets that become upset by the loud booms and the dangers of citizens setting off fireworks.
“One in five of the approximately 2.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan vets have been diagnosed with PTSD,” she said. “That doesn’t take into account other war veterans in our community.
“We have, in West Virginia, one of the highest per capitas of veterans,” she said. “Each firework that is released is a mortar round to them. This is especially true when they are going off at random times.
“When it is the Fourth of July celebration and it is publicized and we all know to expect the fireworks, that is one thing, but when it is 11 p.m. at night and mortar rounds are going off in their minds, it is an attack,” she said. “Read the cases where unannounced fireworks have caused vets to harm others and even commit suicide.”
Nationally, about 9,100 hospital visits are attributed to fireworks accidents each year, according to research Craig has compiled.
“I visited the county commission and asked them to stop them in the county,” she said. “In the time since I have been there until tonight, which is less than a week, a WVU researcher has come out that 40 percent more accidents are coming to the ER due to fireworks during the month of July. We are willing to risk our residents and especially our children.”
Craig owns horses which are very prone to odors from the gunpowder used and also to the loud booms and shrieks from the fireworks.
“Last year, we were in a mess where we had a horse run for three hours as hard as he could run in a stall, terrified from fireworks – not from the city display but from random people,” she said. “I can give my horses Quietex. It helps calm them down.
“The night of June 21, I was calming horses terrified by illegal fireworks that were being put off. I was driving in circles and finally, as the last one went off, located them somewhere between the Poe Bridge and Vicksburg Food Mart area.”
Weston has outlawed fireworks entirely, except for sparklers, Craig said.
“They are looking into an ordinance not to have them sold there,” she said. “They feel if it is sold, it gives a double standard. You can buy them here but you can’t release them there. Elkins has outlawed fireworks.”
Mercer County, Martinsburg, Huntington are other areas that have ordinances about fireworks, she said.
“I know that we have an ordinance, but let’s be honest, guys,” she said. “They start the day the tents go up and they go until the tents come down. The ordinance isn’t followed.
“For the pittance of economic gain we get from these, why are we putting our vets through this? Why are we putting our pets through this? Why are we endangering kids and adults?
“Most of these groups that are in here selling are not even Upshur County residents,” she said. “They are out-of-staters that come in to sell.Ohio is one of the largest producers of fireworks, but you can’t discharge them in Ohio.”
Craig said she knew it was too late for this year but wanted to see what could be done next year before the permits are issued.
“Let’s look at next year and let’s look at truly, are we following the ordinance?” she saked. “To me, it is a big price we are paying for a little dime that we are making.”
Councilman Dave Thomas said, “You are right in what you are saying. I live on the corner of Arnold and Smithfield and for the last week and a half there have been quite a few set off. I also think we need to work on the Upshur County Commission also because many of the fireworks we hear are not in the city limits. I just think they are dangerous. I worry about our vets and I worry about our pets.”
Councilwoman Mary Albaugh said she called in a fireworks complaint Wednesday night.
“It was suggested to me that if I didn’t like it, I should move (by) the person that was putting it off,” she said.
Craig said she appreciated the city put out the information about what the ordinance is recently.
“The county commission told me they would look at what other counties are doing and that they would research it,” she said. “I know you can’t do anything about it for this year, but this gives us a whole year to do it.”
Craig said she appreciated the city fireworks display which is advertised so pets can be secured and vets can be out of the area if they wish.
Mayor Robbie Skinner, presiding over his first city council meeting, said council members will review the issue.
“We will also look at cities beyond Weston and Elkins,” he said.
He reminded citizens of the penalties for not following the city ordinance.
First offense is a fine of $100 to $200 and second offense is a fine of $200 to $350. The third or subsequent offense is a fine of $350 to $500.
“We hear you and we thank you for coming this evening,” Skinner told Craig.
He noted that the Upshur County Commission should be part of the conversation as well.
“We are a city of 2.5 square miles, so if we were to do something, it really would be beneficial that we had a unified front of whatever we did,” he said. “Most of the county’s population lives right around Buckhannon. What happens in Buckhannon affects a lot more people than just who lives in Buckhannon.”
City recorder Randy Sanders suggested Craig come to a meeting in a few months to check in.
Amberle Jenkins, director of finance and administration, added that the licenses that people have purchased to sell fireworks will run through June 30 of next year.