The Huntington Beach City Council engaged in a spirited debate Monday night over lifting the city's ban on state-approved fireworks, with supporters citing fundraising opportunities for nonprofits and opponents raising safety concerns.
Five of the seven council members support lifting the 24-year-old ban, though the proposal faced strong objections from the city's fire and police chiefs.
"I believe Huntington Beach is a responsible, thoughtful and patriotic community, and that if communities such as Costa Mesa and Westminster can move forward with this ordinance and have these fireworks within their cities, then I feel Huntington Beach can do the same," said Mayor Don Hansen, who has made lifting the ban one of his top priorities.
Councilman Joe Carchio added that money raised from fireworks sales would relieve parents of some of the financial burden of their children's sports programs.
But the city's fire chief, Patrick McIntosh, said the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks do in fact cause injuries and fires. Allowing state-approved fireworks would make it much more difficult to detect the more dangerous illegal versions, he said.
"There's no mistake about it, all fireworks are dangerous. They all cause fires, they all cause injuries, they all cause property loss and permanent scars," said McIntosh.
Police chief Ken Small added that "the police department is already stretched beyond its limits" on Independence Day and echoed the fire chief's concerns.
"There's absolutely no doubt that allowing the use of state-approved fireworks would lead to a significant increase in the use of illegal fireworks," said Small. "You are putting your police officers in an absolutely untenable position."
But for many council members, the issue was one of personal choice on a holiday that celebrates America's independence.
Councilman Matthew Harper said the issue is "should a family have the freedom to be able to choose this as an option?"
The Council voted 5-2, with council members Connie Boardman and Joe Shaw dissenting, to have an ordinance drafted to legalize state-approved fireworks, except in areas like beaches, parks and downtown, for a two-year trial.
Councilwoman Boardman said that if the measure is approved, Huntington Beach would be the only coastal city between Ventura and the Mexican border to allow fireworks.