Broken Arrow fireworks rules may go back on the ballot


By John Dobberstein, Editor

The debate over fireworks displays in Broken Arrow reached a new pitch this year, and city leaders appear ready to revisit the issue.

The Broken Arrow City Council is expected to discuss the city’s fireworks ordinance Tuesday, including the permitting and discharging of fireworks in the city limits and enforcement efforts by the city’s first responders.

The Council will also discuss whether to hold a special election “governing the discharge of fireworks within city limits.”

A year ago, the City Council decided not to place a proposed fireworks ordinance back on the November ballot to replace the ordinance passed by voters 16 years ago. It also did not make the April election this year.

In 2006, the City Council passed ordinance No. 2822 calling for an election to decide whether people can discharge fireworks with a permit in the city limits. The proposition passed by a vote of 14,795 in favor and 8,985 against.

Although voters approved the current ordinance legalizing fireworks in the city, the debate over tighter regulations has become more heated in recent years.

Complaints have been lodged repeatedly by pet owners, family members with a veteran coping with PTSD and those that may have anxiety or sensory issues.

Many households have begun setting off fireworks days before the July 4 holiday, sometimes lighting the fuse as late as midnight and disturbing neighbors. The city’s ordinance only permits fireworks discharges on July 3 or July 4 and not after 11 p.m.

There is a fire safety issue as well. For example, in Tulsa’s Chimney Hills subdivision just west of Broken Arrow, a neighbor’s stray firework landed on a roof and burned a house during the holiday period last month.

A man came before the City Council recently and said his dog was injured jumping over a fence due to being scared by fireworks and had to get numerous stitches.

Another issue is the fees the city collects from permits, which was not voted on. The city has amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit proceeds with the idea the money would be used for enforcement and permit processing.

Enforcement has been lax the last several years, but the city has continued to charge for permits and send the proceeds to the city’s general fund to be re-allocated to the police department.

Critics of the city’s approach note many families flaunt the permit requirement and set off fireworks anyway, while others are paying for permits.

Broken Arrow Police Chief Brandon Berryhill told the City Council in 2022 that fireworks enforcement can be difficult because the perpetrators may not be around when officers arrive to a call, or too many calls come in simultaneously for police to handle all at once.

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