Setting off fireworks on Halloween may have its roots in early Christian celebrations, but it’s a tradition that’s here to stay despite the costly permits and fewer places to buy them.
Cities take a dim view of fireworks because of potential safety risks, and so there’s been a crackdown over the years.
But the annual tradition persists, with the noise, sparkle and residual smoke filling neighbourhoods as soon as it gets dark on Oct. 31.
Still, you’ll likely have to travel out of town to purchase your family pack of Roman candles, air bombs, sparklers and ground spinners.
With fireworks sales banned in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Burnaby and even Vancouver, Tri-City residents are heading to Pitt Meadows to get their Halloween fireworks supplies, say the owners of a Pitt Meadows shop that opens up just for three weeks around Halloween and Diwali (the Festival of Lights), which is set for Nov. 4.
“We are seeing people from all over,” said Darcy Erickson, co-owner of Elmer’s Fireworks. “It’s a good mix of just everybody.”
At Elmer’s, you can buy family packs that are legal to set off, as long as you meet permit requirements set out by the cities of Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam.
Unfortunately, the popular Burning School House is not available this year, according to Erickson.
Erickson said he grew up with fireworks because his father always hosted a show for his community.
He and Theresa Celentano started their own business three years ago just as cities began to make them harder to get, such as in Vancouver, which stopped selling fireworks last year,
The shop at 11190 Bonson Rd. (Pitt Meadows) is on Katzie First Nations land, which operates under federal jurisdictions, but the owners claim everything they do is legal.
There are no firecrackers, for example, which the duo admits can be dangerous as well as illegal.
APPLICATIONS DENIED DUE TO "SMALL" PROPERTIES
While fireworks do need to be set off safely, and pets need to be protected, there is something about the community feel of watching the colourful displays with your friends and neighbours that can be great fun.
For many growing up in the Lower Mainland, setting off fireworks for Halloween is a right of passage.
But safety concerns have definitely put a damper on some celebrations.
Port Moody may be the most lenient — it's never banned the sale of fireworks, and doesn’t charge for permits.
It expects people to follow common-sense safety rules, which it posts on its website.
In Coquitlam, you’ll need to have a big enough space to set them off to be eligible for a permit, according to Bob Hieltjes, assistant chief of fire prevention.
According to Hieltjes, six to eight out of 10 applications are denied because they don’t meet space requirements.
He also expects a quieter Halloween this year because it’s on a Sunday.
“The general population is shying away from fireworks,” said Hieltjes, noting environmental concerns and general safety issues.
IN MOST CITIES, YOU PAY FOR A FIREWORKS PERMIT
In Coquitlam, permits are costly: $50 to set off low hazard fireworks, according to the city, and $100 for high hazard fireworks.
“If it’s a neighbourhood that gets together and where there is room they’ll do it,” he said.
Port Coquitlam fireworks permits are $30 and the cost doesn’t seem to dissuade people from applying for a permit. Approximately, 30 permits are granted in the city for Halloween fireworks.
Here are the rules:
- In Port Moody, you must register your Oct. 31 family fireworks display
- In Port Coquitlam, fireworks event permits cost $30 and application for them must be made in person at the city hall tax office by 3 p.m. on Oct. 31. For more information, you can call 604-927-5466 or email email@example.com
- In Coquitlam, fireworks permits must be purchased in advance. Find out more here.
Still, despite the requirement for people to follow the rules, Coquitlam RCMP say they'll have a full complement of staff on Halloween to respond to concerns.
"If they feel something suspicious has gone on if they feel unsafe in any way they should call police," said spokesperson Const. Deanna Law.
If it's an emergency, call 911; the non-emergency number for Coquitlam RCMP is 604-945-1550 while the non-emergency number for Port Moody police is 604-461-3456.