The Huntington Beach City Council is set to officially lift a 24-year ban on state-approved fireworks Feb. 6 over the strong objections of the city's fire and police chiefs.
The ordinance will allow so-called "safe and sane" fireworks on sidewalks and alleyways on July 4 from noon until 10 p.m., but not on beaches, wetlands, public parks or downtown. It also requires, as do other Orange County cities, that organizations obtain permits before selling state-approved fireworks.
Council members hotly debated the merits and downsides of the ban at a December City Council meeting, where supporters cited fundraising opportunities for nonprofits and opponents raised safety concerns.
"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," Mayor Don Hansen said at the meeting.
But Fire Chief Patrick McIntosh said that allowing state-approved fireworks would make it much more difficult to detect the more dangerous illegal versions.
"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," he said.
Police Chief Ken Small added that "the police department is already stretched beyond its limits" on July 4 and that the council will be "putting your police officers in an absolutely untenable position."
Huntington Beach's council majority, however, views lifting the ban as enabling 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 new ordinance is all but guaranteed to be adopted, given that it was approved for introduction by the council last month on a 5-2 vote. Council members Connie Boardman and Joe Shaw oppose lifting the ban and voted against the introduction.
The adoption is on the consent calendar of next Monday's City Council meeting, so it will be approved without further discussion unless a council member requests otherwise.
If approved, Huntington Beach would be the only coastal city between Ventura and the Mexican border to allow fireworks, according to Boardman.