Kenai may extend firework usage

Whether to expand sale and use of fireworks will be tackled on the Kenai City Council’s Wednesday night agenda.

Kenai allows residents to shoot off fireworks during a 48-hour period between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, making it the only Kenai Peninsula city to exempt itself from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s firework ban, albeit for a short time. This time period will become slightly longer if the city council votes at their Wednesday meeting to allow firework use for the entire month of December and allow firework sales in Kenai from the fourth Friday of November to the end of the year.

Though Kenai has had its 48-hour window for legal firework use since 2015, the current code forbids firework sales. Council member Henry Knackstedt proposed changing this, explaining his reasoning at the April 19 meeting in which the council first discussed his ordinance, which originally allowed for the sale of fireworks without expanding the use period.

“It’s come to my attention, and I think to the attention of just about everybody, that there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of fireworks used around the holiday, and all those fireworks are purchased — probably the closest place is Houston, a nine-and-a-half-hour round trip,” Knackstedt said. “Basically those tax dollars are going there, and not here. So this is just a small way to bring individuals into Kenai and gather those tax dollars, and perhaps while they’re here, they’ll go to our restaurants and visit our stores.”

Of the 24 state-licensed firework retailers listed on the Alaska Department of Public Safety’s website, the closest are in Houston and Valdez. According to a previous Clarion interview with Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver, many residents get their fireworks from wholesalers in Palmer and Wasilla.

Though generally allowing fireworks, the proposed new fireworks code disallows “bottle rockets” and “sky rockets,” which it defines as “a firework consisting of a cylindrical case filled or partially filled with combustible material and fastened to a stick.”

Council member Mike Boyle asked Knackstedt why the ordinance forbids “bottle rockets and those fun things that fly in the sky.”

“They’re fun things that fly in the sky, and they’re fun things that fall also, in people’s yards,” Knackstedt said. “… I would see it as somewhat of a public problem to have these things flying on roofs and yards.”

He said a vendor he’d talked to while putting together the ordinance recommended against allowing bottle rockets.

The present code does not forbid any specific kind of fireworks during the 48-hour period in which they are allowed. Under Knackstedt’s proposal, firework vendors seeking business in Kenai would need a state permit, proof of insurance and to pay a $5,000 fee for an annual city permit.

Locations of potential firework businesses will also be inspected by the Kenai Fire Department, which would be able to close the businesses if the Alaska Division of Forestry declares an extreme fire danger.

Knackstedt’s original proposal only created a sales window for fireworks without expanding the use period. Rather than giving Kenai residents only 48 hours in which to legally shoot off all the fireworks purchased in the month-long sales period, council member James Glendening proposed also expanding the use period to all of December.

Glendening’s ammendment passed with an opposing vote from council member Bob Molloy, who said in an interview after the meeting that he is against allowing more firework activity in Kenai.

Because Glendening’s proposal to expand the fireworks use period substantially changed the ordinance from the fireworks sales ordinance that had had been publicly announced, the council delayed voting on it until the May 3 meeting in order to allow a second period of public comment on the altered ordinance.

If passed, the firework ordinance would be subject to a public review before July 1, 2019, “to determine whether or not the City desires to continue allowing the sale of fireworks within the City, or if any changes to the ordinances are warranted,” according to the ordinance text. City Attorney Scott Bloom said the review would allow future public participation.

“It provides the public some assurance that we’re going to look at this as sort of a pilot program, and if any adjustments need to be made, there’s a set time,” Bloom said. “Nothing’s stopping the council from doing it sooner, but there’s a set time that after two years of having firework sales in the city, the council would be able to hear from the public and see if any change in direction is needed.”

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read