ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The only thing brighter than the fireworks that lit up the night skies over Hillsboro last week is the report that no serious injuries or major fires were reported during the first year since 1985 that fireworks were legal to sell and use within city limits.
“I would say that people did really well considering it’s been 18 years since fireworks were legal,” said Dan Kinning, Hillsboro police chief. “For the most part, people were very compliant with the law.”
Kinning reported his department had a quiet July 4, but in the days leading up to it, his squad fielded several complaints.
“Most of the complaints were for discharging after hours and throwing fireworks from vehicles,” he said. “Some people threw them on porches as pranks, and we did issue two citations- but we really didn’t have many problems at all.”
Reports from Hillsboro Community Medical Center back Kinning’s assessment.
According to Brenda Brown, director of nursing, there were no injuries in Hillsboro that resulted in any hospital treatment.
“We’re required to report injuries to the state fire marshal, and I have absolutely none to report,” Brown said.
One incident that did prompt officials to take action, though, was a minor fire near the hospital.
“We had only one call that we answered due to fireworks,” said Todd Helmer, assistant fire chief. “Some pampas grass caught fire behind the hospital and that was caused by a rocket that was shot-but we never found out who did it.”
Helmer said the city as a whole did a good job, but thinks improvements could be made.
“I thought the people did a pretty good job, but I wish we could designate an area where people could shoot them, like Memorial Field or the Sports Complex,” he said. “Maybe if they could find an open spot, it would be a lot safer.”
Steven Garrett, city administrator, thought the public responded well to its first year of fireworks freedom.
“I think the public reacted favorable to the fireworks ban being lifted,” Garrett said. “Most of the questions leading up to the Fourth of July were about how the fireworks would be allowed to be used and what times they could be discharged.”
Garrett said the ban was lifted by ordinance, so it isn’t just a one-year occurrence.
“If there is a drought or burn ban in the future, we can still restrict fireworks in Hillsboro,” Garrett said. “There are some safety issues that may need to be addressed, but overall it went very well.”
Two local vendors, Boy Scout Troop 129 and the Hillsboro High School Site Council, reported brisk sales and decent profits.
“We were really pleased with our sales,” said Debbie Allen, spokes person for the site council. “We were happy with the turnout we had.”
Allen said that since it was the first year for fireworks shooters in 18 years, it also was the first year for fireworks vendors-and it was a learning experience.
“There are some things we would do differently, such as our inventory-now we know what the best-sellers were,” she said. “Our best-sellers were Roman candles and Black Cat firecrackers.”
Farther up the street, Boy Scout Troop 129 also enjoyed good sales, according to Scout master Todd Jost.
“We did better then we thought we would,” Jost said. “Our distributor was happy with our sales.
“I think as people become more familiar with fireworks and get to know which items do what, they’ll buy more in the future.”
Jost said the sales will boost the troop’s effort to raise money for their trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico next summer.
Jost reported numerous customers were from outside of Hillsboro.
Combined figures for both vendors show total sales of about $18,100.
While the city’s sales tax rate of 0.5 percent calculates to less than $100 generated for city coffers, Garrett still saw a silver lining in those sales figures.
“If you look at that $18,000 that was spent on fireworks, I’d say a lot of that was money that would have possibly been spent in other cities,” Garrett said.