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Fireworks are banned in Hamilton; virtual display to replace traditional long weekend show

The city has banned fireworks in Hamilton parks and backyards until after July 4 for fear the spectacle will encourage people to come together in spite of COVID-19.

And the city’s traditional Victoria Day fireworks show will be offered as a “virtual” online display by the local Rotary Club that normally stages it.

But some city councillors say the ban takes away the last bit of fun people could have during the pandemic.

City council voted Wednesday to forbid selling or using fireworks anywhere in Hamilton. When people see fireworks, they tend to gravitate toward them, said Dave Cunliffe, Hamilton’s fire chief.

Neighbours often combine their fireworks to have more of a show. Fireworks also blast debris onto neighbouring houses and vehicles, which causes confrontations.

All of these scenarios involve people getting within two metres of each other, which the city wants to avoid.

“Fireworks tend to bring people together,” Cunliffe said. 

The province is using the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to fine people for groups of more than five who don’t live together. The city is using a bylaw to fine people who aren’t from the same household but get closer than two metres.

The fireworks ban was narrowly approved 8-6 though. 

Watching fireworks from the front porch

“We need celebration,” said Brenda Johnson, Ward 11 (Glanbrook) councillor. In her neighbourhood, “I can watch all the fireworks just sitting on my front porch. I don’t think neighbours need to gather.”

Brad Clark (Ward 9, upper Stoney Creek) asked legal staff if sparklers counted as fireworks, which no one imminently knew.

COVID-19, he said, shouldn’t be a reason to “say no to people who want to give their kids sparklers to run around on the lawn and have some fun.”

Others not only agreed with the ban, but said the increasing prevalence of fireworks in Hamilton is irritating.

Sam Merulla (Ward 4, east end) said he likes the look of fireworks, but they upset animals and cause noise complaints. Judi Partridge (Ward 15, Flamborough) agreed, saying the city should look at only allowing fireworks at certain times anyway.

‘The novelty has worn off’

Maureen Wilson (Ward 1, west end) said fireworks used to be a novelty. 

Now “it’s almost like they’re going off every weekend in the summer,” she said. “The novelty has worn off and it’s become more of an annoyance.”

The Dundas Valley Sunrise Rotary Club, which holds an annual fireworks display at the Dundas Driving Park, is doing a virtual presentation this weekend. A four-minute video of fireworks will appear online and on Cable 14 at 9 p.m. Sunday.

The event raises about $15,000 every year, said Tom McLeod, the club’s vice president. The club won’t raise it this year, but still wants to provide fireworks.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to come together,” he said. “It’s a kickoff to summer after a long winter.”

How they voted

Who voted for a temporary ban on fireworks

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, Maureen Wilson (Ward 1), Sam Merulla (4), Chad Collins (5), Tom Jackson (6), Maria Pearson (10), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Judi Partridge (15).

Who was opposed

Jason Farr (2), Nrinder Nann (3), John-Paul Danko (8), Brad Clark (9), Brenda Johnson (11), Lloyd Ferguson (12).

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