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Tulsa Council Left Without Clear Solution After Fireworks Use Explodes In 2021


Tulsans really enjoyed their fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday, even though setting them off is illegal within city limits.

Councilor Lori Decter Wright described what she saw that night to her colleagues during a discussion last week. 

"There were up-in-the-air fireworks, 360-degree view; from [I-244] along [U.S.] 169, a haze of sulfur smoke everywhere. And then, even upon arrival to my house, you know, all kinds of things going off well into the wee hours," Decter Wright said.

Tulsa Police told city councilors they received more than 300 calls complaining about fireworks over a five-day span, including Independence Day, but most were only complaints. Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish said on July 4, just 35 people said they would be willing to sign the statement saying they saw someone lighting fireworks that’s required for police to take action when they didn’t see it for themselves. 

"An officer will show up to those, the problem being the priority of call that is on a holiday as big as that, they're likely going to be waiting some time for an officer to show up. So, truly the capacity to enforce it is a significant issue," Dalgleish said.

Councilors briefly discussed the possibility of allowing fireworks by permit, but fire officials shot down that idea, with Fire Marshal Andy Teeter calling local conditions a "tinder box."

Tulsa Fire Chief Michael Baker said while a national trend of celebrating fewer pandemic-related restrictions was probably part of the fireworks boom, the festive explosives were just easy to get without really leaving Tulsa.

"And we're talking two large tents of vendors, mostly on the south Tulsa, on the Bixby side. And so, the proximity to availability is a big key to that as well," Baker said.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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