At last week’s special called meeting of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), fire personnel and DDA members held a discussion about the possibility of bringing a city fireworks show back to Dawsonville for the Fourth of July.
Dawson County Emergency Services Division Chief and Fire Marshal Jeff Bailey presented the DDA members with information regarding fireworks safety codes and the steps that would have to be done in order to successfully put on a city fireworks show.
“I try not to ever say never — the fire marshal's office, the emergency services, we’re not in the business of denying and saying ‘no you can’t’,” Bailey said to the board. “Ours is more the educating the rules and the guidelines under which you could do things.”
In past years, the city has held community fireworks shows, most recently partnering with Atlanta Motorsports Park to put on a community fireworks show at the track, but hasn’t been able to do so in the past few years.
Bailey said that, under state and local ordinances, professional pyrotechnic displays are required to be shot off at a distance of 70 feet away from all spectators and occupied buildings for every inch in diameter that the mortars are. Because of this, the larger fireworks are required to be launched from a larger distance away from people and homes.
“The authority having jurisdiction, which is essentially Chief Thompson and myself, has the ability to decrease these distances based on conditions that we are aware of,” Bailey added. “If we can provide a fire watch… we can make them a little closer distances.”
DDA Chair Keith Stone brought up the idea of setting off the fireworks display from the high school parking lot, so that citizens can watch the show from Main Street Park.
“My idea that I have been fostering is to bring the food trucks in, advertise it, have some stuff going on, face painting, kind of like were do at Christmas… and then at dusk have the fireworks and have the fireworks far enough away to where we have full usage of the facilities here,” Stone said.
Bailey said that, while using the high school parking lot for this purpose could be a feasible solution, it would first require a fireworks company to survey the area and present their findings on how plausible the location would be. In previous years, the city has contracted with Zambelli Fireworks to put on shows.
“No matter how you look at doing it anywhere inside the city limits you’re gonna have to address,” Bailey said. “There are some homes built around the high school, things like that — it has been done before; the only thing that would preclude it now in any encroaching residential growth.”
According to Bailey, the process to get a permit to hold such a show would involve the city first finding a fireworks company to hire to put on the show, after which the company would map out the area and propose the best place to use to shoot the fireworks off.
“You have to have a licensed company, you have to get a permit from the probate court, and all the paperwork is essentially done by the fireworks contractor,” Bailey said. “The operator that puts on the show is going to provide drawings and sketches, dimensions, measurements and so on.”
After surveying the area, the fireworks company would then submit its findings for review in order to obtain a permit.
“They’re gonna take a look at Google Earth, they’re gonna look at the maps, they’re gonna mark the points of if you shoot here what’s the closest occupied structure or residence,” Bailey said. “They have to give us a drawing showing here’s where we’re going to do it on the property, how many feet it’s going to be to spectators and how many to buildings — they’re gonna do all of this research and submit that to us and that’s what’s in the application for the permit.”
City Manager Bob Bolz added that, in the past the city has shot fireworks off from Fire Station 1 and from the high school, and that in order to use the high school parking lot as Stone had proposed the city would have to reach an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Dawson County Board of Education.
“I would suggest we reach out to Zambelli and get them to come out and look at the site and make some suggestions, and then if they think it’s feasible and they like what they see we can approach the Board of Education,” Bolz said.