Juneau residents watch the city's fireworks display on July 4, 2021. In late May, the city 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. This holiday weekend was a first test of the new rules. (Peter Segall/Juneay Empire)

July 4 holiday tests city’s new fireworks rules

JPD fields complaints but issues no citations during a generally quieter holiday weekend

The City and Borough of Juneau’s new fireworks regulations got an initial test run over the holiday weekend.

In late May, the 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.

According to Lt. Krag Campbell, the Juneau Police Department did not issue any fireworks citations over the holiday weekend.

CBJ adopts new fireworks rules

“We did get several fireworks complaints, and officers responded. Officers gave verbal warnings and tried educating people on the new fireworks ordinance,” Campbell said in an email to the Empire Monday afternoon.

Based on the ordinance, those found violating the rules could face a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine and mandatory court appearance for the second and subsequent offenses.

City Hall reacts

CBJ Assembly members who worked on the ordinance reported generally quieter conditions than last year’s July Fourth holiday.

“I want to applaud the citizens of Juneau. I worked outside all Saturday evening, and I heard a few loud booms. But, the level of activity was so much more subdued,” said Assembly member Wade Bryson, in a phone interview Monday morning.

“I’d hear pops in the distance but nothing like the bombardment of last year. Last year was a perfect storm of people losing their mind with fireworks out in the (Mendenhall) Valley,” Bryson said.

Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, who initially introduced the ordinance earlier this year, shared Bryson’s sentiment.

“It was much, much, much better than 2020,” she said Monday morning in a phone interview. “It was really nice not to have the mortars.”

Hale said that she had heard from residents that certain “hot spots” still existed, but that overall, the ordinance seemed to work.

Juneau and Douglas enjoy Independence Day festivities

“The Fourth of July 2020 was really terrible. Part of it was sales at Eaglecrest, and part of it was no city display,” she told the Empire in February when she first introduced the ordinance.

She said that her experience hearing from constituents and her own experience watching her dog suffer prompted her to start work on the proposal.

“My hope is that it’s a step,” she said. “A lot of people have reached out to thank me. I know a lot of people were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to enforce every aspect of the ordinance, but better is good. It’s not perfect, but it’s good.”

Hale said that the assembly aimed to make the rules about fireworks more clear. While she considers the weekend’s results a good step, the assembly may address the topic again.

“Maybe we need to do something else,” she said. “Some want a total ban on fireworks, and others go ballistic when you suggest that. In my household, there’s an old person and a dog who are really bothered by fireworks. The key is to balance that with people’s desire to have a lot of fun.”

Bryson credited a robust public information campaign for sharing details about the new rules in advance of the holiday.

“We removed the biggest stuff and asked people to be more respectful. It’s exactly what I thought would happen,” Bryson said. “I really want to give my appreciation to the citizens of Juneau. They heard the message. I’m so impressed.”

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

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