WATERLOO — Complaints were down this year as Waterloo celebrated the state’s third year of legal consumer fireworks.
Police Chief Dan Trelka said his officers received 219 calls for service related to the explosives from June 1 through July 8 this year.
That’s down significantly from the 577 calls received during the same period in 2018. There were 716 calls for service in 2017, which was the first summer after legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad lifted the state’s decades-old fireworks ban.
Waterloo limited the legal fireworks period in its city limits to five days in 2017 before banning it completely last year. Use was allowed this year from July 3-5.
Trelka said his officers issued one citation this year for illegal fireworks use and issued 24 warnings to property owners where fireworks were being used outside of the legal time frame.
“They’re really hard to catch,” said Trelka, who worked late on July 4. “I would respond to one area of the city. By the time I got there, they’d be done. I’d see them going off in another part of the city and go there. I couldn’t catch them.”
The city’s Leisure Services Department reported cleaning up a significant amount of fireworks debris in Gates Park and the downtown RiverLoop Amphitheater.
“A lot of people were using fireworks in Gates Park,” Trelka said. “(Officers) said they couldn’t find a specific prohibition in the ordinance about it.”
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However, state law indicates it is a simple misdemeanor to use consumer fireworks on property you don’t own without the owner’s permission. Trelka said he was looking into the city’s ordinances to see if changes are in order before next year.
Fire Chief Pat Treloar said his department didn’t experience any major issues during the fireworks period, responding to just five fireworks-related calls for service.
“We didn’t transport any traumatic injuries on the EMS side related to fireworks,” he added. “We didn’t last year as well.”
But Treloar said the city may have “dodged a significant event” at the Hippodrome on the National Cattle Congress grounds. Firefighters observed a rocket land on the building but found it did not cause a fire after climbing up to investigate.
“That’s a very old structure with a wood roof,” he said. “That got our attention, obviously.”
While public safety officials were satisfied with the fireworks response, at least two men approached the City Council Monday with debris picked up in their yards.
“This past Fourth of July was kind of ridiculous,” said Rev. Ed Loggins III. “Those things fly everywhere and they can burn down houses and they can burn down garages if they land at the right time.
“Those things are dangerous, seriously dangerous,” he said.
Resident Joel Shepard added, “I don’t think fireworks belong in our city limits.”