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Fireworks dealer upset over red tape

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 21, 2011

After today, those hoping to ring in the new year with a display of fireworks outside the city have a limited number of ways to acquire a permit, which is concerning for the only shop in the Yellowknife area that sells them.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cordi Yaceyko Deutchmann has been selling fireworks for more than 20 years at The Sportsman on 50 Street. This year, she was given notice that from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3, fireworks permits will not be issued by the office of the fire marshal. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

Cordi Yaceyko Deutchmann has been selling fireworks for more than 20 years at The Sportsman on 50 Street. This year, she was given notice that from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3, fireworks permits will not be issued by the office of the fire marshal. After Dec. 25, Deutchmann makes 90 per cent of her sales and says shutting down the office completely for what the notice calls "non-essential operations" will affect business.

The permits through the office of the fire marshal are for people who are planning to set off the fireworks anywhere in the territory outside of Yellowknife. Distributors are forbidden to sell fireworks to any person not bearing a properly filled out and approved application. Once the office is closed at 5 p.m. today, people must approach their community fire chief - who is also the local assistant to the fire marshal - to sign the permit, according to fire marshal Stephen Moss.

"The issue is the office is closed and it's no different than during a weekend except the government has mandatory leave days and all non-essential personnel are off for those days," he said.

Moss said he sent out the notice to all community senior administrative officers in the NWT on Dec. 6 and asked them to post it around the community. He said it was also sent out to the territory's Fire Chiefs Association.

"People can access fireworks permits in a couple of ways. They can contact the office of the fire marshal and, yes, we are closed as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday. They can also get them from the fire chief, the local assistant within the community, if they are setting fireworks off within that community."

Moss said he couldn't speak to the times that each local assistant is available in the community as it "would be a community issue."

Yellowknife residents planning to set off fireworks within city limits have a little more leniency, according to Mayor Gord Van Tighem.

He said people may contact the fire hall's chief or deputy chiefs during business hours. The fire hall is open this week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday next week during the same hours.

"They provide you with the form and they give you the permit and you go and do your fireworks," he said.

Deutchmann said she has always been able to get a hold of someone from the fire marshal's office to sign permits in the time leading up to New Year's Eve either by someone coming down to the store or by faxing the permits in to be signed.

"I can't sell to anybody unless they give me this permit ... So customers would come in, pay, have to let their merchandise sit, and they would fill out the paperwork and then the fire marshal would come down once a day or whatever to sign them," she said. "I guess I'm a thorn in someone's side, I don't know. They just decided it's too hard for somebody to sign it."

Deutchmann is concerned that her customers might not know the office of the fire marshal is closing today and will come in from surrounding communities expecting the signatures will be easy enough to acquire.

"Why should it be on me to pay for the cost of advertising, to advertise their strict rules that they have and how to get a permit?" she asked.

"Well, why don't you just tell us to go home and no celebration this year."

Last year, restrictions on the use of fireworks in the city were relaxed when the city's fire chief Darcy Hernblad eliminated the need for a mandatory $150 safety course.

In 2009, the locations where residents were allowed to shoot off fireworks were limited after complaints from the airport that the bright displays were interfering with aircraft taking off and landing.

Deutchmann said she misses the old days when there weren't so many restrictions with permits.

"My husband and I would go down to Pilot's Monument and watch the shows on New Year's Eve and there were literally hundreds of shows going on around Yellowknife. You used to be able to do it in your backyard. So you would look and you would see pop, pop, pop, all over town."

Copies of the fireworks permits for outside of Yellowknife can be found on the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs website. The permits are free and those interested in buying fireworks must be at least 18 years old.

Fact file

Designated areas for winter fireworks in Yellowknife:

- Yellowknife Bay, minimum 200 metres off the shoreline

- Back Bay, minimum 200 metres off the shoreline

- Frame Lake, minimum 200 metres off the shoreline

- Rat Lake, in the centre

Source: Yellowknife Fire Department

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