Iowa fireworks sales end for season

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Good to the last pop

The sale of fireworks in Iowa fizzled out at midnight Saturday. Temporary sales tents are no longer a common sight in the Iowa Great Lakes. The area had several venders to choose from. There were 15 licensed retailers in Spirit Lake alone and an additional four were licensed in Arnolds Park, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

The latest numbers from the IDPS show 664 total licenses were issued for the summer season — aside from 15 wholesaler licenses. IDPS Fire Inspector Dan Wood said 315 of the licenses were issued for companies selling limited quantities of fireworks — including big box stores selling small numbers of fireworks in the store’s high-traffic areas. The remaining 349 licenses were able to sell greater quantities. However, each site was not necessarily inspected by the IDPS, according to Wood.

“Because of the sheer volume, we knew we’d be holding up progress before all the places would open,” Wood said.

He explained the IDPS issued a temporary license if a completed checklist, which he said was identical to the list used by IDPS, was submitted by retailers along with a mandatory site plan and insurance.

“If they didn’t submit that checklist, they didn’t get anything before we showed up,” Wood said.

State Fire Marshal Jeff Quigle said retailers were understanding of the short time frame for the program’s development.

“We thank the fireworks sellers for their patience with us as we have started a program from the ground up in a matter of weeks,” Quigle said. “We appreciate their professionalism in the submission of site plans, and their flexibility as we have adapted to a newly developed online process. Just as importantly, we also thank our fire service partners in local departments who have helped us and will continue to help us with site inspections at the local level.”

The limited volume sites did not require an inspection to sell fireworks during the season. Wood said IDPS personnel or local fire departments would spot-check the sites to be sure only the appropriate volume of fireworks were available. Inspections at standard locations were more in depth. Wood said inspectors looked for factors like proper exits, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and proximity to other buildings or people and proper product care.

“You can only have so many feet of product before you have to have a flame break,” Wood said.

He explained a flame break is a division of either empty space or a barrier that prevents the spread of fire. In the case of fireworks sales, he said a flame break prevents the entire stock from rapidly catching fire.

Wood said IDPS inspected 227 of the 349 sites that were issued standard licenses.

“We just didn’t have the money, time or resources to get to them all,” Wood said.

The state law allowing the sale of fireworks was signed into law May 9, after a decades-long ban and sales began June 1. Wood was confident the temporary sale sites had been well-covered across the state.

“We believe we got to all the temporary sites,” he said, noting he could not be absolutely sure. “With 99 counties, and with city and county fire departments helping us, we hope we did.”

Wood said IDPS does not direct local fire departments to conduct inspections, but some volunteered to do so. He said additional inspection reports may trickle in, though the window for selling fireworks has closed for the season.

Fireworks may begin for New Year’s celebrations on Dec. 10, but the tents will not be returning until the summer.

IDPS released a statement, reminding the public of the winter sales window from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Wood said licensed permanent sites will be the only sites allowed to sell fireworks in Iowa during that window, but IDPS is unsure how many licensed retailers will be taking advantage of the winter sales season.

“Our plan right now is to try to contact them and see how many are going to operate in December and January,” Wood said.

Temporary sites will need to reapply for licensure if they plan to sell again this summer.

“Everybody’s license expires in April and we’re trying to have our next licensing process start in April,” Wood said, noting that will hopefully cause fewer delays this year.

Wood pointed out that the department’s plans may be altered if the state legislature makes any amendments to the bill.

“The legislature could come in and change things or not,” he said.

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