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To the editor: I appreciate Sunset Beach Chief Lisa Massey’s recent request to raise the fine for fireworks from $50 to $100; however, I believe this does not go far enough to discourage illegal use of fireworks in Sunset Beach.
Sunset Beach has fought hard to obtain funding for a new bridge. One of the reasons cited for its necessity was public safety, including the ability to respond quickly to fires occurring on the island.
The new bridge will not be completed for several years. In the interim, access to the island by the town’s fire department is problematic, which could result in a major disaster in the event of a fire. The fire hazards in a beach community are huge, as evidenced by what recently occurred on Ocean Isle, even with a high rise bridge and fast response time from the fire department there.
While lighting fireworks on the town’s beach has been a popular pastime for tourists, these fireworks represent a major fire hazard to our community, cause noise problems, leave unwelcome debris and terrorize many dogs and cats.
There is no dispute fireworks are a fire hazard. Even sparklers, often mistaken as safe, burn as hot as 1,200 degrees.
Brunswick County has been under drought conditions for some time. The lack of rainfall and general dry conditions has left much of the area prone to fires.
Many of the novelty fireworks sold in South Carolina, and thus available to our residents and renters, are fire hazards and can lead to brush or structure fires when not used properly. A single spark into dry pine straw, grass or undergrowth can quickly become an uncontrolled fire leading to property damage and/or injury.
Nationwide in 2004, fireworks started an estimated 1,600 structure fires and 600 vehicle fires, and resulted in 20 civilian injuries and $21 million in direct property damage.
In 2005, nearly half of the people injured by fireworks were under the age of 15. Furthermore, fireworks can travel in unexpected and dangerous directions, as evidenced by a June 2007 recall for this reason by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A ban on fireworks is not unusual in North Carolina and in other communities around the nation. The only way to achieve some level of voluntary compliance is to make a fine high enough to be meaningful, and to get the rental companies to post the regulations and related fines in their rental books and in the rental homes.
A $100 fine is not sufficient to achieve this purpose. It must be set high enough to get the attention of those who enjoy our community. Perhaps parents who are renting for a week will take tighter control of their children if the fine is substantial.
Ocean Isle has increased its fine to $500. Ours should be no less. Sunset Beach would not be out of line if the fine was increased
The town council of Sunset Beach needs to raise the fine on fireworks to $500 and encourage the rental companies on the Island to advertise this fine in their brochures and in the rental homes.
This is the only way we can begin to achieve compliance with a very necessary restriction on fireworks.