Lincoln says yes to more fireworks

The city council recently allowed firecrackers and other fireworks within Lincoln city limits. Photo: Michelle Fauss, NewsNetNebraska

The Fourth of July has always been a big celebration in Lincoln, but now people who love to blow up fireworks won’t have to drive to another town for the ones that really go boom.

The City Council voted April 12 to allow previously illegal fireworks to be legal within Lincoln city limits. Firecrackers will be allowed, joining a list that has long included sparklers, Vesuvius fountains, spray fountains, torches, color fire cones, star and comet color aerial shells, and color wheels.

Backers of the change argued that it will legalize what residents are already doing. It will also give officials something to tax, sales of the noisy fireworks.

“The changes the City Council made are not going to change what you hear on the third and Fourth of July in Lincoln,” John Spatz, city council member for the northwest district said.

Spatz proposed these changes. He said he was surprised to learn last year that most of the fireworks people set off on July Fourth were illegal to buy or use in Lincoln.

The previous ordinance, in force for more than 25 years, was unenforceable, the councilman argued. He said Lincoln sounds like a war zone every Fourth of July.

Not everything that makes your ears ring will be allowed, however. The city will follow guidelines by the state, which on safety grounds bans bottle rockets, colored sparklers and firecrackers with more than 50 milligrams of explosives.

“What the city of Lincoln did is not going to change anything other than we’re going to generate more revenue here,” Spatz said.

More revenue may be a major reason for letting these once-illegal fireworks come to Lincoln legally.  It could take a while for the cash to flow into city coffers, however, as residents stick to old habits and drive outside town, Spatz said. He expects the income to rise over several years.

“I don’t think in year one were going to see the full effect, I think a lot of people are still going to do what they’ve done every year, go out to Eagle, go out to Waverly and buy their fireworks,” Spatz said.  “Until they realize that, they can do it in Lincoln.” [media id=17 width=360 height=264]

Residents of Lincoln have been shooting off illegal fireworks for years, but this Fourth of July it will be different.  For more information click the video above.

This year, the legal list put together by the state’s fire marshal stretches some 29 pages. But this list could get even longer after Aug. 30, because that’s when a bill the governor recently signed becomes law.  State lawmakers changed the Nebraska law so it ended the need to have the fire marshal test fireworks.

Currently the law has the fire marshal keep a list of fireworks that can be sold in Nebraska and the marshal updates it annually.  Distributors who want to add fireworks to the list must test them for the marshal in September, and then the state will decide if they can be added.  After that, the state will rely on federal testing.

Over time, Spatz expects that revenue effect could be hefty.

“On the third and the fourth, I will go to bed and I will just hear constant explosions,” Spatz said.  “And the sad thing is everyone was buying these fireworks outside of Lincoln, we have lost thousands and thousands of dollars.”

The change has some fans. Noah Knisely, 25 of Lincoln, said when he was in middle school he would go out of town to buy black cats and artillery shells, some of his favorites, he said.

But now that Knisely can stay in Lincoln to buy his fireworks he said, of course he will.  But he doesn’t think it’s going to make any difference in Lincoln.

“Maybe a few more people will light them off, but I think the people that didn’t like the big ones are probably the ones with little kids who don’t like big noise,” Knisely said.

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