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Norfolk council asked to consider fireworks ban in rural areas

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The irresponsible and inconsiderate use of fireworks has some suggesting they should be banned in the agricultural zone.

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Nikolett Buko, of Waterford, has asked Norfolk council to act now that the private deployment of fireworks is increasingly common, especially in summer and on weekends.

In her July 13 presentation, Buko said disruptive noise from fireworks is happening everywhere at random times on the calendar.

She said fireworks are distressing to animals, present a fire hazard in untrained hands, and trigger people with memories of strife who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Buko played a brief video of a rural resident attempting to calm a horse while fireworks exploded nearby.

“Rural areas should be about peace and quiet,” Buko said. “Animals there should be kept in peace and quiet.”

Noting that the private deployment of fireworks is illegal in many places in Europe, Buko expressed surprise it is tolerated in Canada.

Council was sympathetic to Buko’s position. Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman has also noticed that random fireworks can be heard in her ward most any day of the week.

“There was an enormous amount of fireworks on the first (of July),” Huffman said. “Not only on the first, but after the first and before the first.”

In acknowledging the problem, Mayor Kristal Chopp said a bylaw response faces enforcement challenges.

Chopp noted the problem is most prevalent after dark on weekends when Norfolk bylaw staff are off duty. For their part, the Norfolk Police Services Board has repeatedly signalled its reluctance in recent years to have the Norfolk OPP enforce county bylaws.

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The enforcement challenge, Chopp said, arises from the response time to fireworks complaints. Chopp said fireworks disruptions tend to be brief. There will not be time, she said, for enforcement officers to arrive, assess the problem, and assign responsibility.

“It’s not just something that is happening in Norfolk,” the mayor said. “It’s happening across Ontario and the country. If you create a bylaw, how do you enforce the bylaw?”

Windham Coun. Chris Van Paassen noted the next day that disruptive uses of fireworks are addressed in Norfolk’s burn bylaw and in a dedicated fireworks bylaw. Along with the mayor, Van Paassen says challenges arise due to the logistics of enforcement.

“It all boils down to how we enforce our bylaws,” Van Paassen said. “When people don’t use common sense, you can’t fix that.”

Chopp suspects these increasingly frequent disturbances are related to “COVID fatigue” and ongoing pandemic lockdowns that have reduced leisure and recreational opportunities.

Fireworks are increasingly in the news. Recently, Norfolk OPP reported that a random firework was responsible for setting a house on fire in Port Dover. The home was not badly damaged but the force advised the community that greater care must be taken in this area.

Fireworks may pose an enforcement challenge, but Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus said there is a strong case for action in the rural zone based on right-to-farm legislation. Columbus said any activity in the agricultural zone that disturbs and distresses livestock should concern the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

“Maybe that’s the place to start – at the provincial level,” Columbus said.

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