Fireworks legal in Iowa, but still illegal in Guttenberg

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Although the new Iowa fireworks law doesn't change the rules in Guttenberg, residents can still enjoy a colorful display on Saturday, July 1, during the Chamber of Commerce's annual Stars & Stripes celebration. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Early last month, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a new law into effect that allows fireworks to be sold throughout the state to buyers age 18 and up. According to the bill, fireworks companies with permanent buildings can sell fireworks June 1 through July 8 and Dec. 1 through Jan. 3, in conjunction with the Fourth of July and New Year’s celebrations. Fireworks companies with temporary buildings, or tents, can only sell fireworks June 13 through July 8. 

Before the passing of the new law, Iowans could purchase fireworks out of state and possess them, but weren’t legally allowed to discharge them. In Guttenberg, this remains unchanged. “It is still illegal for anyone to sell or set off fireworks within the city limits of Guttenberg,” said Police Chief George Morteo. “Here in town, only those fireworks sponsored by the city or fire department are allowed.” Sparklers, black snakes, poppers, and the like were always legal and are allowed in Guttenberg.

The state fire marshal reported that five permanent locations in Brooklyn, Grimes, Marion, Spirit Lake and Rembrandt have started selling bottle rockets, roman candles, firecrackers, and other fireworks already. Larger chains, such as WalMart, Sam’s Club and Target are completing applications for retail licenses. 

According to the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, sale of fireworks could bring in over $1 million in sales tax revenue in 2017. During 2014, Missouri reported $36 million in taxable sales of fireworks, netting the state $1.5 million in sales tax revenue.

In March, the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Association voiced its opposition to the legalization of fireworks in the state due to safety concerns. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were involved in an estimated 10,500 injuries treated in United States hospital emergency departments during 2014.

“You have to be aware that even though the law changed and you can purchase fireworks in Iowa, it is still a safety concern for children and people shooting these things off,” said Morteo. There’s always a concern for inadvertent fires, especially now with the dryness we’ve been having.”

Residents of Guttenberg can still enjoy fireworks on Saturday, July 1, during the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Stars & Stripes celebration. “In order to include a fireworks display at our annual Stars & Stripes event, we have to apply for permits with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Iowa DNR several months in advance, and we have to get written permission from the City of Guttenberg. We have to fill out paperwork answering questions about the weight and hazard class of the fireworks and size of the shells, the latitude and longitude of the launch vessel, and event security,” said Emily Sadewasser, chamber director. 

The Coast Guard establishes a safety zone for all waters between mile 615 and mile 615.5 for the event and issues a broadcast notice to mariners. To apply, the chamber must also include a site diagram to show the location of the launch vessel in relation to the viewing area. An area of the park has to be roped off following the restrictions set by the table of distances, which call for a specific number of feet of separation between the launch site and the spectator area per inch of shell diameter. 

“Winegar Works kindly provides us with a barge to use, which must also meet certain size and safety requirements as per U.S.C.G. inspection and the fireworks provider. The cost of the display this year is $4,400, and the Chamber purchases event insurance to cover the fireworks show. J&M Displays choreographs a display for us and sends a launch team, and the Guttenberg Fire Department is a big help in making sure the fireworks run smoothly and that appropriate safety measures are taken,” Sadewasser told The Press. “The Lock & Dam helps us by shutting down traffic through the lock during the display, and city staff help prepare the barge.” 

These precautions allow Guttenberg residents and visitors to have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

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