Amateur fireworks display sparks debate in Wakefield
By: Stuart Benson
Canada Day has always been a big deal in Wakefield and the annual fireworks display that usually caps off the festivities are no exception, which is why, when they were cancelled this year to respect social distancing guidelines due to COVID-19, some residents took it upon themselves to set off their own. The more numerous, if smaller, displays of loud, exploding lights going off near their homes prompted one resident of Wakefield to act.
In the wake of the impromptu display of fireworks, Eric Seifert started a Change.org petition looking for signatures to ‘ban the private use of fireworks in the municipality of La Pêche’, but said it’s also something he’s been concerned about for some time.
“This is not any recent personal grievance, I'm just picking up on what seems to be a prevalent concern among many residents,” Seifert explained. “It's bothered me for a while.”
Seifert said he isn’t judging those who do set off fireworks, he just thinks many aren’t aware of the effects they can have on those nearby, such as residents with PTSD and most dogs.
“It can also terrify wildlife, causing them to abandon their nests,” Seifert explained. “I don't think people are looking at that and saying, ‘I don't care,’ they just aren't aware of it.”
However, Seifert recognizes that a Change.org petition is, ironically, not exactly a very effective vehicle for actual change, and admits that he’s not even convinced a total ban is the best way to solve the issue.
“I really just wanted to prompt a discussion and frankly to make the municipality take notice that there is this unresolved grievance,” Seifert explained. “I knew there were going to be heated feelings on both sides and I wanted them to see that this is a source of tension.”
As with all things that exist partially on the Internet, if you go looking for a ‘debate’, you are almost guaranteed to find someone willing to champion the other side. In this case, that person is Wakefield resident Jason Overfors, who created his own petition to ‘stop the petition banning fireworks’.
“I just wanted to show [Seifert] that there may be people with his mentality, but there are more people with mine, which is a sort of 'live and let live' mentality,” Overfors said. “Fireworks are fun if done responsibly, of course, but to ban them outright is completely ridiculous.”
Overfors is aware that some residents have PTSD and the concern for pets and wildlife but thinks Seifert is just taking away the opportunity for people to let loose and have a good time.
“[A total ban] seems to be something that isn't well thought of and could get out of hand if it came down to that,” Overfors said. “Where do you draw that line?”
With regard to ‘live and let live’, Seifert responded by saying that he does understand that mentality, but believes he’s simply asking for people to be mindful of the ‘let live’ part.
“I don't think imposing these loud and potentially scary fireworks on your neighbours meets that standard,” Seifert said. “It's just disappointing that people can't see the irony of making statements like that.”
La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux said in a statement to The Low Down that he is aware of the debate around fireworks and that it may be something that could be reviewed by the Fire and Public Safety committee, but for now, he reminded residents that the current bylaw is intended to minimize risks to the community and reduce the costs associated with unfounded fire service calls.
“Please, get a permit, respect the bylaw, and let your neighbours know of your plans,” Lamoureux asked. “You’ll help reduce the risk of forest fires, unnecessary expenses and frustration.”
Currently, the bylaw regarding the use of fireworks requires a $10 permit, which must be obtained from the La Pêche fire department 24 hours beforehand. Fireworks must also be set off 150 ft from any building and before 10 p.m.
If you would like to lodge a complaint about someone not abiding by the rules, you can call dispatch at 819 459-9911 and someone from the fire department will be sent out. Currently, there are no set fines for setting off fireworks without a permit, but council plans to determine them at the next council meeting on Aug. 3.