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Sunday, 24 December 2006

Fireworks Remain Un-Banned

The guy fawkes just past started out rather uneventful for us, we did out fireworks thing then came inside and watched some movie on TV - I forget what now. A bit before 11pm our 11 year old son began shrieking something unintelligible and ran downstairs - we finally worked out he was yelling "Fire!"

Suddenly we saw that the gap in the curtains behind the TV was not black with the night sky as it should have been but was glowing orange - the neighbour's big tree, 2 stories high was completely engulfed in fire - right next to our wooden fence and less than a metre from their house. I ran for the phone and called the fire department while Matt and our visitors and our oldest two kids ran for the hose and buckets to throw on the fire - I followed with the kitchen fire extinguisher, other neighbours followed suit.

It turned out that the fire had been started by a teenager pointing a firework at the tree which had a lot of dead leaves on it. The teenager was seen standing near the fire taking photos of it on his mobile phone and had to be yelled at to move out of the way and help.

This of course made many of us in the street rather angry as potentially all of us who lived close and the people whose property the fire was started on were put at risk because of some idiotic teenager mishandling fireworks. What annoyed us the most though was when the fire fighters were told by witnesses how the fire had started and who the teenager was they just had a chat with him and left it at that because "he felt really bad about it"! The guy very nearly burned down someone's house. The owners of the house were very traumatised, the woman was crying and screaming at one point. It was only the quick actions of the neighbours attacking the fire with hoses, buckets and fire extinguishers that prevented the fire from spreading - the fire department took 15 minutes to arrive.

As I see it, the problem with fireworks and reckless use of them is not the fact that fireworks are available but the fact that there are no consequences for people getting caught using them stupidly if what happened that night is anything to go by.

For this reason I am not hugely impressed by the recent decision to impose restrictions on the supply and sale of fireworks. I am pleased that they will not be banned as banning penalises the majority who do use them safely for the actions of the few who do not but the problem does not lie with the age of those buying them or the time period they are available for. Sure over-eighteens will probably be more sensible with them than teenagers - though the fire at my neighbours was started by an 18 year old and the time frame restrictions will probably lessen the time period the fire departments go into busy season but there still has been nothing done to impose tough penalities on those who do stupid things with them.

The teenage 'adult' who started the fire next door to my place should have at the very least been made to pay for the costs of the fire department call out, the damage the fire caused even though it turned out to be minimal and the replacement costs of the neighbours fire extinguishers. But all he got was a quiet word with the fire chief.

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