The Town of Canmore is clamping down on the use of fireworks within the municipality due to concerns about wildfire and impacts on wildlife.
A bylaw passed at the Tuesday (June 6) council meeting states that except for the use of “low impact fireworks” that can be set off by the Town or events approved by the Town for New Year’s Eve and Canada Day festivities, on Dec. 31, Jan. 1 or July 1, their use will be banned.
“I love to watch fireworks,” said Mayor Sean Krausert, who brought the motion forward. “But in a valley full of wildlife and full of trees, it’s not a good idea because I believe that both are terribly adversely affected.”
With no fireworks planned for July 1 celebrations this year, Krausert noted the importance of council sending a message that “rogue” fireworks set off by the public will not be tolerated.
“We have to send a message that this is not allowed and put a big fine on it so that people really think twice about whether or not that’s a good idea,” he said.
As such, those caught in violation of the new bylaw will be susceptible to a hefty $5,000 fine.
Coun. Joanna McCallum questioned whether bylaw officers would need to catch violators in the act or if a member of the public could report them in order to issue a fine.
It was noted by Town staff that, if reported by the public, a fine could only be issued with “sufficient evidence.”
The Town’s current fire bylaw also states that no person shall offer fireworks for sale or discharge fireworks unless issued a permit.
Initially, Krausert proposed banning fireworks from April 1 to Nov. 30, with particular concern for Alberta’s wildfire season.
“While fireworks at any time I believe is a disturbance to animals, during these months especially, they’re also a potential fire hazard,” he said.
Loud noise from fireworks has been proven to cause fear, stress, disorientation and anxiety in wild animals.
Coun. Tanya Foubert argued that while she understands there are impacts to wildlife due to the explosive noise of fireworks and there is an increased risk of sparking a fire, she feels it important to still allow their use under the purview of the Town, for significant “cultural events” including New Year’s Eve and Canada Day.
“The way I’d like to see it is that there’s a full-on fireworks ban for anyone other than the municipality on those two dates outside of those two dates. No one else, other than us can do fireworks, and there’s only two dates we could if we wanted to,” she said.
“I think New Year’s Eve is less of a disturbance to wildlife because it’s in the winter, and I think Canada Day is just such an event for our community and our country – it’s Canada Day. Over time, it has been a big part of celebrating that here in this town … Those are the two exceptions I’d like.”
She further argued that with advance notice when fireworks will be set off by the Town, members of the public can also better prepare for their use, whereas “uncontrolled” fireworks do not allow for the same preparation.
Coun. Wade Graham proposed potentially banning fireworks altogether, not allowing either the Town or the members of the public to set them off at any time of the year.
He said he received an email the evening before the council meeting from Bow Valley WildSmart containing several science-based articles supporting banning their use due to impacts to wildlife and he also suggested the Town consider other celebrations that don’t use them.
“I don’t mind watching the fireworks, the pretty lights. But sometimes, we hold on to traditions that we shouldn’t and it’s my opinion that the negative impacts of fireworks on wildlife, on the community, on our pets, is significant.
“I also recognize that this is a Canada Day thing and I don’t want to be anti-patriotic, but maybe it’s time to do different things. What other things can we do with this money other than set fire to the sky?”
Graham was the sole member of council opposed to the bylaw amendment, which will allow for fireworks set off by the Town or Town approved events for New Year’s Eve celebrations or Canada Day.
The Town of Banff has not only banned the use of fireworks completely but has also said a pyrotechnics show won’t go ahead on Canada Day this year as Parks Canada reviews the impacts of noise and light flashes on wildlife, and the municipality assesses the secondary impacts on pets and people in the community. There is also no pyrotechnics display for Halloween.
In Banff National Park, Parks Canada officials have reported observing a range of effects on wildlife, from summer nesting birds to wintering elk already distressed by the fall rut.
By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 14, 2023