Ever since I moved to Anchorage in 1991, we've had a de juro ban on the personal possession and use of fireworks in the city. However, there was what was called "secondary enforcement"; namely, cops wouldn't respond unless there was a complaint from a citizen. So people did shoot off fireworks during the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve, but it was kept within reasonable bounds.
But this was not good enough for Anchorage Assembly member Dick Traini. Traini decided it was hypocritical to have a law against fireworks on the books without enforcing it. So instead of beefing up enforcement, Traini took the path of lesser resistance. He convinced enough Assembly members to approve of a revised ordinance, AO 2010-86, allowing the use of fireworks from 9:30 P.M. New Year's Eve to 1 A.M. New Year's Day, albeit with numerous geographical restrictions. On December 7th, 2010, the Assembly voted 7-4 to approve it, and Mayor Dan Sullivan reluctantly allowed it to become law. The law automatically sunsets after two years unless specifically renewed. Voting in favor of it: Dick Traini, Bill Starr, Ernie Hall, Mike Gutierrez, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Jennifer Johnston, and Paul Honeman. Voting against it: Harriet Drummond, Patrick Flynn, Debbie Ossiander, and Chris Birch.
The sale of fireworks in Anchorage remains forbidden. The only place in Alaska where fireworks can be legally sold is in the community of Houston, about 10 miles northwest of Wasilla. Because the Mat-Su Borough also relaxed their restriction on the personal possession of fireworks, fireworks sales are reportedly up 30 percent this time around. The majority of fireworks sold in Alaska come from China, which means we're giving China foreign exchange for a frivolous product which has no lasting value, further adding to our trade deficit with China.
But liberalization seems to have spawned an upsurge in the number of complaints fielded by the Anchorage Police Department. A spokesperson said APD fielded "tons of complaints" about fireworks use before, during and after the legal hours of 9:30 P.M. Friday to 1 A.M. Saturday. Some complainants wanted the mayor's phone number, some wanted their Assembly member's phone number, and some simply wanted the noise to stop. Police issued no citations and made no arrests. The fire department reported no known fires started as a result of fireworks, although EMTs responded to two separate fireworks-related injuries.
Two Assembly members responded to this story. Harriet Drummond, who voted against the ordinance, says she received more than 30 e-mails, some of which describe the late-night hours as sounding like a war zone. In contrast, Dick Traini said many residents enjoyed the privilege despite the complaints. Traini further said some people won’t follow the rules, but the law would allow parents to teach their children the safe way to use fireworks.
In my neighborhood near Airport Heights, fireworks usage was clearly up from previous years. The neighborhood sounded like Baghdad from about 8:30 P.M. until 1 A.M. But unlike previous years, fireworks usage dropped off dramatically after 1 A.M., and all was quiet after 2 A.M. So it seemed like people appreciated the fact that it had become explicitly legal, and showed their appreciation by better confining it to within the designated time period. Ms Martyr reported similar conditions, but Alaskab4udie was unhappy with the situation.
A sampling of reaction from other Anchorage residents who commented to the ADN story:
HOOTWOOTEN 50 minutes ago
South Anchorage was like a WAR ZONE... started at 5:00 PM and ended somewhere around 3:00 AM...
Now I remember why fireworks were illegal in the city limits... at least then only the real morons shot them off... but to encourage ALL the morons in Anchorage to go crazy... is just INSANE...
There is something about those people who haven't evolved past being mesmerized by shiny things that go bang... that brings the entire human race down...
I'll be going out of town next year... that was just way out of hand and insanely unsafe last night...
Ledfoot 18 minutes ago:
Walking my dog in the Strawberry Rd/Jewel Lake area this evening was a real eye opener. There has always been some fireworks litter on New Years day, but I could hardly believe the mess in the streets & yards today. Instead of the usual few scattered bottle rockets & roman candles, this year it was a non-stop barrage of what looked & sounded to be pretty powerful fireworks. The debris is everywhere, & it stinks as well. Dick Traini oughta come clean up this mess.
They started at 6PM & were still shooting them at 4AM here, I'm glad I didn't have to get up & go to work this morning.
TheSdog 19 minutes ago: (Sdog is Alaska Voices blogger Brian Sweeney)
This is likely something that should go for a vote. When I lived in Texas they had "firework zones" where people could go set them off.
It sure seemed like firework activity was up a notch from past years. I would be inclined to vote to keep them illegal. That or have special areas in town for people to have their fun. Not real different than many other activities that might bother neighbors.
It is hard to feel sorry for dog owners complaining on here.
When you hear the barking, see the unleashed dogs out causing trouble and the dog refuse dog owners leave everywhere sympathy is not something they deserve.
1clean1 34 minutes ago:
I live in Girdwood, we got a double dose between the Alyeska show and everyone one else going nuts with their own.
As I was walking around town this morning,I saw a ton of litter on the snow from the fireworks lining the streets.
I'm sure all the people partying last night have no intention of cleaning up the mess.
So there it will remain until spring clean up when volunteers have to pick up each tiny individual piece of debris.
Did anyone think about this when they voted this brilliant idea in?
AlaskaRaised 17 minutes ago:
I grew up in Anchorage when fireworks were legal, it was fun and only happened twice a year (4th of July and New Years Eve) I don't go out anymore now that I'm older due to all the drunks on the roads lol. So I turned out all my lights and t.v. opened up my blinds and enjoyed all the fireworks in my warm house...a few minutes to midnight I turned the t.v. back on and watched the ball drop in Time Square New York...all from the warmth of my home I enjoyed bringing the New Year 2011 in. And pretty much by 1 a.m. all was quiet in my neighborhood. Life is too short to be complaining about a little fireworks celebration that happens only twice a year! I personally don't mind it as long as people are being safe around it and keeping their children especially safe. People need to make memories for thier children as my parents did for my siblings and I (R.I.P. mom and dad); those were some of the best times with my family and our close friends growing up here in Anchorage. Happy New Year Anchorage!