Cities move to keep fireworks ban before new Ohio law starts

The move to keep fireworks banned has increased among local cities in recent weeks as an Ohio law allowing them on a limited basis starts July 1.

Fairborn, Germantown and Oakwood have introduced ordinances to continue outlawing fireworks after Beavercreek approved a similar measure in March.

Dayton also opted out of the new law just weeks after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 172 last year. Dayton officials cited public safety and noise concerns, common factors in other jurisdictions’ recent legislation.

“We currently have regulations that seem to fit our city,” Fairborn Mayor Paul Keller said. “I’m not against fireworks. But I also get complaints from parents with children that have issues with loud noises.

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“I get complaints from citizens with dogs that over-react to fireworks,” he added. “I get complaints from people who have friends and family of (military) veterans who have PTSD that don’t react well to the fireworks. There’s lots of considerations there.”

On July 1, the discharge of consumer-grade fireworks in Ohio will be legal on private property except in communities choosing to opt out, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

The law will permit people to set them off on specific days, including the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, records show.

They can’t be used by people in possession “or control of, or under the influence of, any intoxicating liquor, beer, or controlled substance,” according to the state.

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Fireworks have been banned in Oakwood for more than 100 years and the ordinance introduced this week at the urging of Safety Director Alan Hill aims to continue that practice, said Councilwoman Anne Shank Hilton said.

“Oakwood is almost entirely residential” with nearly 4,000 housing units in about 2.2 square miles “and with this density, fireworks pose a significant risk to persons and property,” she said.

The city’s legislation states “the possession, sale, or discharge of fireworks poses a significant danger to the public and may cause serious injuries as well as significant property damage, especially in residential and business areas.”

Similar language is in the Beavercreek and Fairborn ordinances, records show. Beavercreek Police Chief Jeffrey Fiorita said in 2020-21, his department fielded more than 190 fireworks complaints, most of them around Independence Day, according to city records.

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Fairborn has set a public hearing on the issue for May 16 and Germantown one on June 6. Oakwood will reconsider its ordinance at its next meeting, Mayor William Duncan said.

Centerville and Kettering have not introduced legislation to opt out. Neither has Riverside, but council members have and will continue to discuss it, according to that city.

Tipp City council members said Monday they won’t get in the way of the new state law but would consider imposing limitations if citizen fireworks complaints increase.

Law Director Jonathan Freeman suggested limiting hours when fireworks could be used but gave no recommendation. Several council members said they would leave the new law alone and see what happens.

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“If we have a problem, we can bring it up then,” Councilman Doug Slagel said.

The Ohio Municipal League has not offered any recommendations or guidance to jurisdictional members, as “it is a local control issue,” OML legislative advocate, Thomas Wetmore, said in an email.

The ability for cities to opt out of the Ohio law is “one good function” it provides, said 6th District state Sen. Niraj Antani.

The Miamisburg Republican cited fireworks’ injuries to children and the impact the explosives can have on veterans as reasons he opposed the bill. With the opt out allowance, “each community can have the debate for itself,” Antani said.

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That discussion in West Carrollton, City Manager Brad Townsend said, will likely happen next year.

Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg and Nancy Bowman contributed to this report.

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