Fireworks spark backlash in Metro Detroit

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Police were busy responding to fireworks incidents across Metro Detroit over the holiday weekend, and residents upset by the noisy displays are signing an online petition urging the state to restore its ban on commercial-grade fireworks.

As of Monday evening, more than 13,000 people had signed the online petition posted on by Brad Lang, a West Bloomfield resident who launched similar drives in 2012 and 2014.

The petition calls on lawmakers “to immediately repeal the Fireworks Safety Act of 2011,” which legalized the sale and use of airborne, commercial-grade fireworks in Michigan.

“The result has been a drastic increase in the amount and violence of private fireworks displays all over the state of Michigan, thereby endangering people, pets and property,” a statement accompanying the petition states. “It is not worth the additional revenue.”

Lang could not be reached for comment, but some Metro Detroiters who signed the petition Monday posted remarks expressing their displeasure with what they consider excessive noise and danger from neighbors’ fireworks displays.

“I hope this gets repealed,” Kristin Hargrave of Pleasant Ridge wrote. “It was a war zone all weekend!”

Patricia Hicok of Pinckney, another petition signatory, wrote: “It is difficult to enjoy the inside of my home because the neighborhood is a perpetual fireworks display. Please end this misnamed act. It isn’t safe.”

The law’s defenders argue it means those who want fireworks no longer have to make clandestine trips out of state to buy them, and that since fireworks end up here anyway, Michigan should benefit from increased jobs and tax revenue.

Locally, two homes were damaged by fireworks, and in a third incident, a group of boaters threw fireworks at another craft after a collision on Lake Oakland.

In addition, a man helping to put on a fireworks display along Lake Huron was injured when a mortar inadvertently ignited on the ground.

The man was hospitalized after the incident, which occurred about 10:15 p.m. Saturday in Port Sanilac.

Port Sanilac Fire Chief Brian Moran said the man was reloading a mortar when a spark got into the cylinder and ignited it on the ground. He said the man’s face and hands were injured. Moran said he doesn’t believe the man’s injuries were life-threatening.

On Saturday, a rocket was accidentally launched from the street into the living room of a home in the Nine Mile and Harper area of St. Clair Shores.

Police said the incident happened about 10 p.m. on Grand Lake Street. No injuries were reported.

Police Chief Todd Woodcox said a group of people were setting off commercial-grade fireworks in the street when one went awry and flew into the open tailgate of a Ford Escape that contained a cache of the pyrotechnic devices.

They ignited, the vehicle caught fire and a mortar-like shell launched and crashed into the front window of another home.

“It broke two panes of glass, but fortunately it rebounded out of the house,” Woodcox said. “Fortunately, it didn’t detonate inside the house.”

He said police issued citations to two people. The city has an ordinance that forbids fireworks from being launched on public property and within 200 feet of a residential dwelling.

“People are just using fireworks carelessly,” Woodcox said. “They’re great fun when they’re used properly and safely, but unfortunately, when you launch them in a densely populated residential area, you’re going to have problems. Fireworks weren’t designed for densely populated residential areas.”

Also on Saturday, two boats collided on Lake Oakland in Waterford Township after a fireworks display. According to police, the boater responsible for the collision and his passengers became aggressive toward the second boat’s operator, and people aboard one of the craft tossed firecrackers at the other boat.

Officials said no one was injured and they continue to investigate.

Early Friday morning, a firecracker exploded on the porch of a Dearborn man while he was watching television in his living room.

Police said the incident happened about 2 a.m. at a house on Calhoun Street on the city’s east side. The blast broke the house’s front door and blew out some windows.

“It looks like it was some form of legal, commercial-grade fireworks,” said Dearborn Police Capt. William Leavens. “It’s clear whoever did it wasn’t using it in the manner for which it was intended.”

Leavens said it appears the house was selected at random.

Leavens said they have solid leads on those responsible, who could face felony charges.

“The people who live in the house are lucky no one was hurt,” he said. “I think (whoever) did it was also lucky not to get hurt.”

The three incidents came just days after a 47-year-old Walled Lake man died after he jokingly placed a powerful lit firecracker next to his head.

Alcohol was a factor in the accident, police said.

Police say people who use fireworks need to take extra care since state law now allows them to buy and set off more powerful firecrackers.

“Everyone has to be more aware of what the repercussions are when fireworks aren’t deployed the right way,” Leavens said. “Parents have to look after their kids and adults have to be just as careful. It’s may be legal to go out and buy this things, but you’re responsible for deploying them in a safe manner.”

(313) 222-2058

Associated Press contributed.