Fireworks blasting despite Maple Ridge's ban

Bottle rockets, Catherine wheels, Roman candles and a “Grave Digger” were among a pile of fireworks seized by Ridge Meadows RCMP on Halloween, despite a ban that’s been in place in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows since 2005.

RCMP confiscated almost 100 pieces of illegal fireworks Oct. 31, but did not hand out any tickets.

Calls through the night were also lower than previous years. RCMP received 75 calls for service on Halloween, compared to an average of more than 100 calls in the past. They included four people who spent the night in the RCMP’s drunk tank for public intoxication, 25 calls about mischief and five disturbance calls.

People Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, however, continued to defy the fireworks ban, setting off crackers and rockets, sending dogs into a frenzy.

In Maple Ridge, a recycling bin on 116th Avenue near Lougheed Highway caught fire after someone dumped fireworks in it.

“It was much quieter than usual,” said assistant fire chief Timo Juurakko, adding crews were kept busy with medical calls and car accidents.

Pitt Meadows fire department did not receive any calls related to fireworks, but noticed many people disobeying the ban.

“It is disappointing,” said fire chief Don Jolley.

Since 2005, the sale, purchase and lighting of fireworks in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows has been restricted to individuals who hold a certificate from Natural Resources Canada’s Explosives Regulatory Division. The course costs $100.

The fireworks bylaw allows RCMP, bylaws officials and firefighters to ticket offenders with fines of $1,000 for selling fireworks and $200 for setting them off without a permit.

Jolley intends to review Halloween night with RCMP and discuss whether the city needs to step up enforcement.

Jolley points to a 32-year-old woman in Vancouver who was suffered serious injuries after being hit in the face on Halloween with a bottle rocket.

“There are still dangers and people using them are putting others at risk,” he said.

Enforcing the ban isn’t easy either as it requires police, fire or bylaw officials to catch the person in the act.

“By the time, we see it, respond and get there, they’re gone,” said Jolley.

Although most Metro Vancouver municipalities have a fireworks ban, Vancouver and Burnaby still allow them. Residents also purchase fireworks across the border in Bellingham.

“We seem to have a supply that reaches our local community from somewhere,” said Jolley.

“Enforcing the ban is very challenging when you can go to another community and bring them back.”

In August, two homes in Maple Ridge were damaged by a fire sparked by a group of teens playing with fireworks.

Jolley and the Maple Ridge Fire Department encourage residents to help them enforce the fireworks ban by reporting folks who flout it.

Despite the rule breakers, both fire departments believe the ban is working.

“We used to get a lot more calls. We’d have fires, we’d have injuries,” said Jolley.

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