Still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, officials in the largest city in western Massachusetts are trying to apply strong medicine to what they’ve called an epidemic of illegal fireworks.
The Springfield City Council by unanimous vote Monday night gave initial approval to an ordinance that would hike up the fine for possessing illegal fireworks in the city from the current $100 to $300 – the highest the city can go under state law.
Introduced by Ward 6 City Councilor Victor Davila, the ordinance comes as Springfield and other Northeast cities and towns are experiencing a literal explosion of fireworks with the popping and booming persisting at all hours of the night.
"It is a real issue. -- a safety issue and a nuisance and it is really ruining our quality of life and I am not going to let these knuckleheads ruin our quality of life," said Davila.
In the last two weeks, the city received over 1,500 fireworks complaints.
"We have veterans in our city with PTSD that this is affecting," said Davila. " It ruins peace and quiet and mental health."
Fireworks are illegal to sell, purchase, and possess in Massachusetts. But the associated monetary fines are not enough of a deterrent in the opinion of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
" Get their attention and make them think twice," said Sarno.
Sarno said he’ll seek permission from the state legislature to attach fines for fireworks to driver’s license renewals, vehicle registrations and any professional licensing done by the city.
Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi said two recent building fires and several brushfires were caused by fireworks.
"This is not a joke. This is not fun and games," said Calvi. "Property is being destroyed and people are being injuried. This needs to stop."
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said she’s assigned officers to specifically respond to fireworks complaints.
"It is challenging and difficult," said Clapprood who explained the fireworks are often being launched from moving vehicles, or set off in the middle of the street by people who then speed away.
Typically, illegal fireworks complaints are concentrated around the Fourth of July. But this year, Calvi said it started in early June and has continued without stop.
"I can only surmise it is because people have been cooped up in their houses with the lockdown," said Calvi. "I've seen it start so early."
To prevent overwhelming the city’s emergency 911 system, Calvi asked people to report illegal fireworks to the city’s 311 call center.