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What to know about fireworks laws in Marshalltown

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Tents like this one in the Hy-Vee parking lot have popped up all over Marshalltown in anticipation of the July 4 holiday.

Fireworks and the Fourth of July go together like ice cream and apple pie for many people in America, but local safety officials are warning caution and awareness when using such products.

Marshalltown city officials emphasized that fireworks use within city limits is illegal. The state law changed to allow fireworks in 2017, but left provisions for local governments to prohibit their use if they deemed fit, and that’s what the Marshalltown City Council decided soon after the law passed.

“It’s important to follow the ordinance because it’s the law of the city. We want people to obey the rules and regs as set forth by the council,” said Marshalltown Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Cross. “We want to make sure everybody is safe.”

For legal products, like sparklers, Cross said children should be accompanied by adults and the products should be enjoyed in an open area far from flammable materials, like wood, paper and more.

Cross said fireworks prohibited by the city can cause a lot of issues.

“It has the potential to cause damage to people, injuries and fires,” he said. “Once you light that firework off and it goes into the air, you lose positive control of it. The firework may not be done exploding or burning by the time it reaches the ground, and inevitably that material will come down on somebody else’s property.”

Cross said the safest way for Marshalltown residents to “scratch the itch for fireworks” is to go to a controlled, inspected and professional fireworks display.

Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper also said his department will be on the lookout for violators of the city’s fireworks ordinance. He said some residents may be confused about the fireworks’ legality in the city limits, because it is legal for vendors to sell them in town.

The 2017 law allows cities to prohibit the use, but not the sale, of fireworks in their jurisdiction. That is the case for Marshalltown, where many large tents have popped up to sell fireworks.

Tupper said fireworks present an obvious safety risk in a city with people living close to one another. He also said fireworks cause noise complaints and can be scary for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, including many at the Iowa Veterans Home.

“People can receive a warning. They can also receive a citation,” Tupper said.

He said officers will be proactively looking for fireworks ordinance violators. If an officer arrives at a property to investigate if fireworks were illegally used and it is obvious that they were used, the officer is able to cite the property owner, Tupper said.

However, he said it would be preferable to have no one breaking the city’s fireworks law so officers do not have to issue such citations.

County law

Unlike the city of Marshalltown, Marshall County leaders allowed the legal use of fireworks under state code in 2017 in all rural, unincorporated areas of Marshall County.

“We are fortunate in this respect to not be having a dry year to this point,” said Sheriff Steve Hoffman. “It’s still a good rule of thumb for our rural users of fireworks to have water available and not use those fireworks where they may fall down into dry hay.”

Even though fireworks and other products, like sparklers, are legal for use out in the county, safety should still be users’ first priority. That includes adult supervision of children, not pointing fireworks at other people or oneself, not relighting a dud product and ensuring proper space for a device to go off within one’s own property.

“You have to be cognizant of being a good neighbor,” Hoffman said.

While much of rural Marshall County is marked by corn and soybean fields, Hoffman said there are small, unincorporated neighborhoods that dot the countryside. Those concentrations of people can come under threat if a firework is negligently fired in their direction or lands on their property.

Hoffman said users should be aware of the rules and ordinances of their local jurisdiction when it comes to fireworks as a precaution. He also said fireworks users should also be aware of the state law’s time constraints on product use.

In areas where their use is legal, fireworks can be shot off from June 1 to July 8 in Iowa. For most of that time, fireworks can only be used between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

An exception comes around the Fourth of July holiday. The hours for use are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4 and on the Saturdays and Sunday immediately before and after the holiday.

For the full state law regarding fireworks, visit https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/727.2.pdf

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Contact Adam Sodders at 641-753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com