Fireworks survey results show a need for more discussion

Flickr photo of fireworks & tree courtesy of dcJohn. 

The local listservs sure have been chatty about the July 4th fireworks in the neighborhood. Granted, doing this survey might keep things heated, but I thought it would be interesting to see how people would vote. (As always, caveat that this isn't a scientific poll.

There is a lot of passion on the topic of neighborhood fireworks, both for and against. These firework displays aren't organized events; these are private residents buying and lighting up gobsmacking amounts of things that go boom, which turns into street-by-street ad hoc neighborhood events.

WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle, via  Twitter

WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle, via Twitter


On the email listservs over the past few days, people complained to Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, they complained about scared kids and scared dogs and the loud noise. Others cheered the neighborhood feel, the camaraderie of impromptu gatherings and the fun of the fireworks.

Some supporters of the fireworks tried to make it an old vs new resident issue, which is silly, frankly. It's not about how long you've lived somewhere, it's about deciding what our neighborhood is about and respecting all residents. For a very long time, enjoying fireworks (or not) has been part and parcel of Petworth on July 4th. In fact, I'd argue that it's much less crazy now than it was a decade ago, when the fireworks would light up the sky on the 4th from every possible angle from dusk until 3am, and anywhere you looked it was a light show. Now the pop bang pop barely starts on the 3rd and peters out by the 5th or so. (Of course, it's rained the last two years...)

One resident, Triena Rogers, wrote on the Petworth listserv:

"As a life long Petworth resident (been here since 2nd grade, I'm now 47), we have always done fireworks. And yes, my now 18 year old son and his grandparents and most of the residents of [our street] were out doing the same and enjoying it. So instead of dividing our wonderful neighborhood and making people stop celebrating, come up with a solution. How about a Petworth 4th of July neighborhood party? We can do fireworks and when the party is over, so are the fireworks. This takes time and effort. Most people don't want to go to the Mall to watch the fireworks. So stop dividing our neighborhood; lets work together."

Triena has a great idea. I think most people want to celebrate the holiday locally, with the event at the Old Soldier's Home every year notwithstanding (it's been rained out for the last 2 years). 

Petworth residents watching a local fireworks display in the street.

Last night, at least 60 or more people gathered at the ballpark across the street from Powell Elementary and had quite the show. I don't know if the event had a permit (the ANC commissioner for the area wasn't aware of any), but there were people in yellow vests on the field setting up the fireworks. And permit or no permit didn't stop a large crowd from sitting in lawn chairs and blankets like any July 4th celebration. 

If neighbors want to get organized, either partnering with the Old Soldier's Home or creating a different "official" neighborhood event, bear in mind that fireworks are still illegal in DC. It'll take a change of the laws to make it a legit event.

On the ball field across from Powell Elementary on Upshur Street. They brought all these fireworks via the U-Haul truck, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

Okay, finally, how did people vote in the survey?

I turned the survey off around noon on Wednesday the 6th with 423 overall responses, and overall I'd say it was close. I think most of the positive responses are people who enjoy the neighborhood feel, and the negative responses are people who dislike the noise and the trash afterwards. 

57.2% respondents said they did not like the neighborhood fireworks. I think the fact that the vote was close (42.8% said they did like them) means more discussion should be had about supporting local events. 

When asked if the DC government should enforce the existing laws, which currently makes illegal almost all the fireworks people are complaining about, 22 respondents said there should be even MORE fireworks, while 57.7% said the city should enforce the existing laws:

Lastly, I asked if DC should allow these types of fireworks by residents, but enforce a strict time to stop. (I wrote 10pm in the survey, but received a lot of comments that 11pm was a better cut-off, which I agree with. That response was almost all of the "other" 10.3% submitted.)

Added up together, the "yes make fireworks legal, but give a time limit" responses garnered 69.9% positive votes. A flip of the first question of pro/against supporting neighborhood fireworks. 

My take is that everyone can enjoy the fireworks -- if they end by 11pm. (Well, dogs won't enjoy them no matter what time they end.)

So now it's up to you. Whether or not you support neighborhood fireworks in Petworth, I think a larger conversation should be had. Some people really want to buy and shoot off expensive explosives as part of their July 4th tradition, a lot of people want to watch that first group of crazy pyromaniacs do that, and some want peace and quiet after a formal show someplace else

I think this is something for Brandon Todd's office to pick up as Ward 4 Councilmember and run with. What say you, Brandon? 

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!

Related article: About those July 4th fireworks... legal, not legal? Wanted, not wanted? (July 5, 2016)