Have a blast, but where? City considers options for fireworks sites that fit rules

Options include setting aside a few open spaces around the city or a spot in each of four quadrants.
YOUNGSTOWN -- One day, the city may be giving your church or community group little choice about where it sends up those rockets' red glare.
If state safety guidelines tighten much more, future commercial fireworks displays may be limited to several wide-open sites around the city, said Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr.
Each year after fireworks accidents, the state fire marshal's office typically expands the amount of space needed to have such displays. That's making it harder and harder to approve permits that fit the types of shows organizations in the city are used to producing, O'Neill said.
"If year after year it gets tougher, we may have to do something," he said.
Permits each year: About 20 groups each year apply for permits, and they like to shoot their displays near their events, such as festivals.
As more space is required, O'Neill has been persuading applicants to move the spots where they shoot the fireworks to better comply with state guidelines.
Cities are tough, because buildings are so close together. O'Neill can waive requirements, such as if a brick building or road might be within the zone where hot embers are falling. He won't, however, waive the rules if spectators could be in jeopardy.
If he grants a waiver of state rules and somebody gets hurt, O'Neill is liable. He doesn't want to be part of anything like that.
"You're taking a heck of a risk. There's a lot of responsibility in that signature," he said. "I'm morally liable, too. It would crush me if somebody got hurt."
In the future: Avoiding that risk soon could mean telling festival organizers they must move fireworks displays far from their site. That approach probably would affect about half the groups that apply for permits each year, O'Neill said.
The city could designate several open spaces, such as old industrial sites, as spots where any group can launch the shells, he said. Another idea is finding one spot on each of the city's four quadrants set aside for shooting fireworks.

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