JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Fireworks are illegal inside Johnson City’s corporate limits and the city’s police chief said they create multiple layers of stress, mischief and even physical and fire risk — but he’s expecting a typical year with countless violations and plenty of citations.
“You cannot possess, sell or use fireworks inside the city limits,” Chief Karl Turner told News Channel 11 Thursday. “Any explosive type devices are considered a firework.”
That leaves pretty much only sparklers in the realm of approved fireworks fun within the city’s boundaries.
Turner rolled through a litany of reasons for that and made it clear the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) enforces the anti-fireworks ordinance vigorously before offering his prediction that this year will be much like those that have come before it.
“We do issue citations for a violation of that city ordinance,” he said. “That would be heard in our municipal court, and we also seize the fireworks as evidence and ask the court to allow us to destroy those after the cases are adjudicated.”
Plenty of people call the city to complain each year, Turner said. Often the complaints are related to the noise produced and the hours people are setting the fireworks off, which is often late at night and into the wee hours.
But the chief, who said extra officers are brought on to work overtime every Independence Day period, said while the calls are answered as quickly as possible it’s not always in time to catch perpetrators. The widespread use produces some real suffering and some real risk, he said.
“A lot of residents have pets who the fireworks affect the well-being of the pet,” he said.
“A lot of veterans who have PTSD are affected by those explosive sounds. In addition…you can look at the weather here recently, the dry weather we’ve had, so certainly the fire potential from fireworks always goes up. And also the injury to people who use fireworks is always a concern as well.”
JCPD put special focus on the West Davis Park neighborhood north of downtown last year, holding community meetings with residents concerned about a multi-year string of “fireworks wars” that ratcheted up the intensity to a level higher than most neighborhoods experience.
One of the neighbors involved in that collaboration with police, Barry Drummond, told News Channel 11 after last year’s Fourth of July weekend that West Davis Park saw a big improvement.
“The times they were out here, I mean, it was quiet you hardly heard anything if you did, it was few and far between,” Drummond said. “And then after midnight, when we usually get the wars going on, it wasn’t like that at all this year, I mean, you had intermittent fireworks like somebody’s running out of their house lighting something off and then running back in, but you didn’t have like the constant fireworks going off all over the community.”
Last year’s efforts yielded some success, but in general, Turner said the officers who shift from the Freedom Hall sanctioned fireworks show to working neighborhoods are kept hopping.
“I wouldn’t say it’s trending one way or the other,” Turner said. “We answered a lot of calls last year all over the city, various neighborhoods throughout the city so we expect something similar this year.”