ASHLAND — Ashland city officials are considering a more strict ban on the use of fireworks within city limits after hearing complaints from residents over the July 4 holiday weekend.
Ashland police fielded 366 calls from July 1 to 4, according to call logs developed by the Wooster-Ashland Regional Council on Governments, the area’s dispatch center.
But only a fraction of those calls were related to fireworks, according to Chief Dave Lay.
Lay said there were only seven calls related to fireworks made between July 1 and 4, a 36-percent decrease from the same weekend in 2021, which totaled 11 calls. There were also no charges over the last two years.
Still, council member Jason Chio, who represents Ward 2, said he received several complaints from constituents.
“The complaints that people have, I can tell you, many of the rules aren’t being followed in this law to begin with,” Chio said, referencing Ohio’s law that went into effect on July 1.
Under the new law, residents can discharge fireworks July 3 to 5, along with the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays before and after, Labor Day weekend, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Day, Chinese New Year and Cinco de Mayo. They can also be set off Memorial Day weekend starting next year, as well as Juneteenth in 2023.
But if you read closer, there are rules within the bill that effectively make the new law prohibitive in cities, said Ashland fire chief Rick Anderson.
“If people go by the new law, it’s built with safety in mind,” he said.
Anderson said the fire department did not have any fireworks incidents over the weekend.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any.
Kathy Witmer, a spokeswoman for UH Samaritan Medical Center, said the hospital treated one person for a traumatic eye injury due to fireworks between June 24 and July 4.
OhioHealth Ashland Health Center “received a limited number of patients with firework injuries from activities in or around Ashland County.”
Christina Thompson, a spokeswoman for OhioHealth, said HIPAA laws prevents the medical network from providing specifics about the injuries.
Three people, including one child, died in the United States over the Independence Day weekend this year, according to media reports — a statistic Councilman Dennis Miller cited.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but three needless deaths due to fireworks,” Miller said at a recent council meeting, adding he wouldn’t be in favor of allowing fireworks to be set off in the city.
Chio encouraged people who feel strongly in favor of aligning with the state law to share their thoughts.
“I would love to hear the other side, because right now I’m just hearing the negative side,” he said.
Ben Bowman, a resident of Ashland, said at a recent council meeting he is not supportive of an all-out ban within the city limits.
“It’s not the job of government to keep people from doing things that aren’t always the smartest and might get themselves hurt,” he said.
Having said that, however, he noted “close calls” of getting injured over the years from other people acting irresponsibly.
No action has been taken by council.
The city continues to operate under its existing ordinance, which prohibits people from possessing “for sale at retail, wholesale or otherwise; or sell at retail, wholesale or otherwise; give away, discharge, ignite or explode; or in any other way possess any fireworks as defined herein, within the Municipality, except as provided in Section 549.09.”