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Thursday, Jul 10 2014 11:03 PM

Why it's time to grow up and ban fireworks

By The Bakersfield Californian

Let's say it with a bang: It's time to snuff out personal-use fireworks in Bakersfield. The longstanding tradition has finally worn out its welcome. The annual cavalcade of dangerous, ear-splitting incendiary devices that reappeared again this month reminds us that the negatives -- fires, injuries, skittish and bolting pets and the general lack of peace and quiet -- still outweigh the positives. Enough is enough.

Bakersfield Fire Chief Doug Greener has gone on record as saying he is against personal fireworks. Keep the large-scale, professionally run fireworks shows, Greener suggests, but ditch the often-less-safe, man-on-the-street renditions. We couldn't agree more.

The Bakersfield City Council, however, seems unwilling to budge on the issue, with a majority of members saying they'd hate to ruin the fun for all residents because of a few fires and injuries, some caused by blatant, even intentional recklessness. "I hate for government to get that big. I just wish people would be more respectful," Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell told The Californian on Tuesday.

With all due respect to Councilman Maxwell, it's a wish unlikely to be fulfilled. Some Bakersfield residents have shown they just can't get enough fireworks -- and not just on Independence Day, either.

For roughly the first seven to 10 days of each July, Bakersfieldians can count on hearing an annoying assortment of pops, screeches and explosions in neighborhoods all over town. Pets go crazy and run away from their yards, with owners having to scour local shelters to reunite with them. Families, both young and old, are jarred awake. Neighborhoods become ashy graveyards for expired bottle rockets and charred cardboard tubings that once housed brilliant but brief fountains of flames.

Speaking of flames, city fire stations reportedly responded to 31 fireworks-related blazes during a 24-hour period that began 8 a.m. on July 4. Of all the places that can least afford to have fiery projectiles zooming down its streets, this dry, scorched city in the midst of a historic drought should be at the top of the list. Banning personal fireworks has become an issue of not just safety but of common sense.

Most people have shown they can celebrate responsibly. But in 2014, here in the arid West, our obsession with personal fireworks is now antiquated. There are myriad ways residents can celebrate America's birthday without endangering themselves, their neighbors or their property, or straining their public safety resources.

Not lost in the debate is the multitude of Bakersfield nonprofits that count on yearly fireworks sales to help keep their organizations going. The corner booths have become community staples; they're true signs of a Bakersfield summer. Many of these charities could take a financial hit with the banning of street fireworks sales. But Bakersfield has garnered a reputation as a giving community -- and one that places a high value on the spirit of entrepreneurship. Surely we can come up with new ways to fund these organizations and have a little fun in return. That sounds pretty patriotic to us.

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