ANCHORAGE, Alaska — New Year’s Eve was a busy night for the Anchorage Police Department, with dispatchers receiving numerous complaints Friday night after a recent city ordinance made New Year’s fireworks legal in town.
“In addition to people calling in about fireworks, we had tons of citizens who phoned in -- angry citizens wanting the mayor's phone number, wanting to complain about the fireworks ordinance being legal this year,” said APD spokesperson Marlene Lammers.
The ordinance legalizes the use of fireworks from 9:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve until 1 a.m. New Year’s Day, with restrictions on use within 500 feet of churches, gas stations and other locations.
APD says the majority of complaints involved fireworks going off before and after the set times, but officers did not respond to many.
“It's low-priority, because if you have a robbery or a serious assault compared to the fireworks, fireworks is going to take the bottom,” Lammers said.
Police say no citations were given Friday night. But Anchorage Assembly member Harriet Drummond, who voted against the ordinance, says she's received more than 30 e-mails, some of which describe the late-night hours as sounding like a war zone.
“Many complaints, concerns: terrified animals, people unable to sleep, people having to take drugs to sleep, people having to drug their animals,” Drummond said.
Assembly Chair Dick Traini, who had pushed to legalize fireworks for New Year's Eve, says many residents enjoyed the privilege despite the complaints. Traini says some people won’t follow the rules, but the law would allow parents to teach their children the safe way to use fireworks.
“What we need to do is concentrate on the legal hours to use fireworks, and make sure everybody is conformed to that legal time frame,” Traini said.
While the sale of fireworks remains illegal in the municipality, Gorilla Fireworks in Houston says it saw a 30 percent increase in overall sales.
The fireworks ordinance has a sunset clause, and will be in effect for two years before it has to be re-approved by the Assembly.
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