A fireworks cheer for fire chief
Mike W. Bryant
Friday, December 31, 2010
Hats off to Yellowknife fire chief Darcy Hernblad and reasonable regulation minders everywhere.
Hernblad has broken the shackles of free-thinking men and women living in the city of Yellowknife so they can once again proudly purchase fireworks for private New Year's parties like normal grown-ups should, without fear of exorbitant fines and government retribution.
Gone are the dark days of his predecessor who would have had us cower in fear should we dare skip his $150 mandatory fireworks class and light off a Roman candle or cherry bomb without his suffocating hand to guide us.
It seemed incredible to me last year when former fire chief Albert Headrick decreed that henceforth no one in the city could purchase or handle consumer fireworks - the regular garden variety not used in large professional shows - unless they could find the time and money to attend his rinky-dink course, limited to a maximum 20 people.
It was even more incredible that not a single city councillor or MLA found it bothersome that an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat could make a decision limiting the activities of taxpaying voters without their approval or consent.
How ironic then that Headrick was here barely long enough to witness the fruits of his directive. Two months after all but banning fireworks usage by adult Yellowknifers he returned to Saskatchewan after living in Yellowknife and serving as fire chief for 22 months.
"There's so much damage caused by fireworks displays and injuries that are sustained with them," said Headrick without providing a shred of evidence.
I say that because after poring through this newspapers' archives I couldn't find a single story related to injuries from fireworks in the Northwest Territories in 15 years. There are plenty enough involving, say, snowmobiles.
In fact, there have been two snowmobile-related deaths in and around Yellowknife just this year alone. Yet, as long as one has a valid driver's licence, there is no requirement from the city to take a separate course to learn how to drive a snowmobile.
I might be inclined to argue that driving a car and driving a snowmobile are two entirely different things. Nonetheless, take your snowmobile outside city limits and you're not even required to wear a helmet, let alone have a special licence to drive one of these potentially very dangerous machines.
Yes, in the wrong hands or in the wrong location, fireworks can spell disaster. It seems just as unwise to hand your 12-year-old a box full of Saturn Missiles as it would to fire them at your neighbour's house.
People, especially young people, do get hurt. Thankfully the rules require users to be 18, to have a permit and to set fireworks on ice a safe distance from people's homes.
Happy fireworks days are here again, and just in time for New Year's. It would have been nice to have some forewarning but still we have Hernblad, a Yellowknifer of 30 years, to thank for having the foresight and reasonableness of mind to let common sense rule.
It's a refreshing position coming from a public servant. Too often the impulse seems toward nanny statism and rules for rules' sake.