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Damage Report Sparks Whittier Move to Ban Fireworks

February 26, 1987|SUE CORRALES | Community Correspondent

WHITTIER — Swayed by data on property damage and injuries from legal fireworks, the City Council has asked for an ordinance banning the use and sale of fireworks.

The ordinance will be ready for City Council review by the March 10 or March 24 City Council meeting, said City Manager Thomas Mauk. If the three members who requested the ordinance vote for it, the ban would go into effect in time to prevent firework sales for next July 4.

The move came over the protest of half a dozen community leaders at this week's City Council meeting, who said a ban would cost service organizations their most important source of money.

A city study showed that 21 community organizations sold Fourth of July fireworks here last year, and raised an average of $1,824 apiece. Much of the money went to charities, organization spokesmen told the council.

Nina Louise Ball, adviser for the Rainbow Girls, said her group would have to hold four carwashes, 10 candy sales, and would still be short $500 to earn as much as they netted from fireworks sales last year.

But council members were more impressed by a city report that showed fireworks have caused 20 to 30 fires in the city since 1981, and caused more than $250,000 worth of damage, not including the cost of putting out the fires. Although no injuries were reported in Whittier, the council reviewed a study by the state fire marshal showing that 38% of fireworks-related injuries are caused by legal fireworks.

The narrow 3-2 council margin reflected sentiments of the audience at this week's public hearing, where applause greeted speakers on both sides of the issue.

"I have to believe that if the issue were on the ballot, the people would vote for a ban," said Mayor Gene H. Chandler, who voted for it along with Sabina Schwab and Victor A. Lopez. Opposed were Thomas K. Sawyer and Myron D. Claxton.

"People are going to get injured no matter what we do," said Claxton. "I hate to see government stepping in to control this and control that."

Two people spoke in favor of the ban, both private citizens. However, nine people spoke against it--six of them members of service organizations and one a fireworks salesman.

Opponents included a pair of Whittier High School students, who warned that youngsters would see the ban as a challenge. "Just because you want to stop it, they will want to do it more," one said.

One organization president told the council that his YMCA men's club raised $2,500 last year through fireworks sales, but unlike others he declined to oppose the ban. In an interview afterward, Richard Lockwood, president of the AM Y's Men's Club, explained that he had been burned by a sparkler many years ago. Lockwood said he could not speak in favor of fireworks "when the issue is losing hands and fingers."

Whittier would join Long Beach, Cudahy, Signal Hill and La Habra Heights as municipalities that ban fireworks in the Southeast/Long Beach areas. Fireworks also are illegal in unincorporated areas.

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