FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – Beginning in 2022, the City of Fort St. John will now have a New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

Five council members voted in favour of the display during Monday’s meeting, hoping fewer residents will set off their own illegal display. Councillors Byron Stewart and Lilia Hansen both voted against the motion.

The city has received numerous complaints of illegal fireworks being set off, especially around Canada Day and Halloween, says a June 14th report to council.

Councillor Stewart doesn’t believe the city’s display will stop anyone from firing off their own fireworks.

“They’re still available to buy anywhere outside the municipality, and you can fire them off anywhere. I don’t see how this is going to slow them down,” said Councillor Stewart.

In response to Stewart, Councillor Trevor Bolin believes the display would encourage people to see the display instead of setting off their own.

Hansen says she is in favour of fireworks but has concerns surrounding the New Year’s Eve display.

“If people are already celebrating and in merriment, I don’t want them travelling or driving. I think those who set them off in their yards now are still going to do it,” said Hansen.

Hansen said she is also concerned about the cost despite it being lower compared to other events. The city’s current contract for Canada Day fireworks, expiring at the end of this year, costs between $15,000 to $20,000 a year. City staff will issue a request for quotes for 2022 to 2024.

Going off Hansen’s comments, Councillor Gord Klassen proposed having the display earlier, which council approved.

“If it was early enough in the evening, which it can be, those who are driving to the event can do that. And then they can go to their respective parties,” said Klassen.

“I would like to propose, actually, that we do it at eight o’clock. I think that gives people time to if they’re having dinner or they’re working. It’s enough time afterwards, and yet it’s early enough in the evening.”

According to the report, the majority of residents who complain report that fireworks cause their pets to have anxiety or run away.

“The North Peace BC SPCA branch has corroborated this information and indicates that on the day of, and the day after a major holiday like Canada Day, they receive 12-20 stray pets who have run away due to the noise created by shooting off fireworks,” says the report.

According to the fire prevention bylaw, fireworks can’t be sold, given, or set off in the City. A $100 fine could be handed out to those who don’t abide by the bylaw. With a fireworks supplier permit, the fire department is allowed to set off fireworks for events.

The Bylaw Department has reported difficulties enforcing the bylaw, says the report.

“What often happens is Bylaw staff will receive a complaint call, and by the time they are dispatched, the firework show is over,” the report states.

“Most of these complaints are received after hours. The additional expense of overtime costs often required to investigate a neighbourhood fireworks display can outweigh the fine of $100.”

The report says staff is interested in further exploring alternative options in the future, such as laser shows or drone shows.

“There is a considerable value in providing community funded fireworks events which allow celebrations to take place while ensuring a safer experience,” said CAO Milo MacDonald in a June 14th report. “This report is an attempt to provide better and safer alternatives to the public.”

Council will discuss the proposed display on Monday.