Because of a worldwide shortage of fireworks this summer, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska only received about one-third of the products they ordered to sell locally. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Global fireworks shortage led to decreased local sales

When the City and Borough of Juneau’s new fireworks ordinance took effect late last month, compliance with the new rules may have gotten a boost from an unlikely source — COVID-19.

Add fireworks to the list of products affected by shortages this summer. Last month the Associated Press reported that shipping delays and global virus mitigation measures made it difficult for factories in China to restock after people around the world purchased a record amount of fireworks last summer while stuck at home with no public fireworks shows to attend due to pandemic restrictions.

“There is a worldwide shortage of fireworks. We only got a third of our order,” said Jodie Gatti, tribal enterprise manager for Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the federally recognized tribe responsible for selling fireworks locally in Juneau.

July 4 holiday tests city’s new fireworks rules

In a phone interview Tuesday, Gatti said Tlingit and Haida planned to sell fireworks from June 26 to July 3 but ran out of product on Friday, July 2.

“We sold out right before 5 on Friday afternoon. We turned several people away,” she said.

Overall, Gatti said the fireworks sale attracted about 1,000 customers compared to about 2,000 last year. She said that once customers had purchased all the fireworks, the tribe stationed an employee at the site to explain the situation to customers, as most fireworks sales happen over the weekend.

“We sold less this year. But, our average daily sales were about the same. We just had fewer sales,” she said.

Different inventory, price changes

Although several national news outlets reported across-the-board price increases of 15% to 30% for fireworks this year, Gatti said prices in Juneau were more nuanced.

Gatti said that Tlingit and Haida set prices based on the recommendation of the supplier. But, she noted that some prices did change along with the inventory mix, making it difficult to compare prices over the two years.

“We did order a different variety this year, but prices were comparable to last year. Some of the bigger items were more expensive than last year, though. Mid-level items stayed about the same,” she said via an email to the Empire.

She said the tribe purchased more “of the larger stuff” and added no-noise fireworks to the inventory.

“They are cool,” she said. “They are good for people who like fireworks but don’t like the noise.”

Juneau and Douglas enjoy Independence Day festivities

Boosting compliance

In late May, the CBJ Assembly passed an ordinance that banned loud, mortar-style fireworks in Juneau’s neighborhoods and imposed limits on the types, times, and locations where residents can use fireworks. In the weeks leading up to the July Fourth holiday, city officials asked residents to use fireworks “in a manner that is considerate of others” as part of the information campaign explaining the new rules.

Earlier this week, city officials told the Empire that the holiday weekend was generally quieter than last year’s and attributed the change to widespread compliance with the new rules and a robust public information campaign to explain them.

Gatti said Tlingit and Haida added protocols to help customers stay compliant with the letter and spirit of CBJ’s new rules.

“We handed out garbage bags and copies of the updated city ordinance. We asked people to follow the rules,” she said, adding that many customers said they planned to use their purchases outside of neighborhoods.

According to Lt. Krag Campbell, the Juneau Police Department did not issue any fireworks citations over the holiday weekend. However, they did field complaint calls, issue verbal warnings, and educate residents about the new rules.

Future plans

Gatti said that Tlingit and Haida plan to sell fireworks in anticipation of New Year’s Eve celebrations — a first for the tribe.

She said the sale would likely start about a week before the holiday and advised potential customers to listen for radio advertisements with details about the sale as the holiday draws closer.

The city’s new rules do allow for concussive and holiday fireworks during certain hours on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, provided they are used on private property outside the city’s fire service area.

The fire service area extends from the end of Thane Road to Cohen Drive; out to the North Douglas boat launch and up to the houses on Fish Creek Road; out to the end of Sandy Beach on Douglas; all of Lemon Creek; and all of the Mendenhall Valley.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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