RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Fourth of July is just two days away but Richmonders say the skies have been lighting up with fireworks for weeks now – and it’s leaving some residents fed up with the nightly routine.
“It was very bright, it was very loud, it was very startling,” says city resident Jim Goodin.
A barrage of booms, bangs and cracks have been keeping him and neighbors up each night. The explosions got a little too close to his Chimborazo home Monday night.
“I heard explosions outside and when I looked out the window it was almost like daytime,” he says. Days later, remnants from the firecrackers still sit in his yard.
“The stick from one of them is sitting right there,” Goodin says pointing to the debris found very close to his house.
Goodin believes the nightly fireworks are tied to the ongoing protests in the city, telling 8News that he and his diverse neighbors support the social justice movement but this part is disruptive.
“There’s a lot bigger things going on with no justice, no peace and I think we are getting the no peace part of it,” Goodin declared.
He’s not the only one impacted by the constant bright bursts.
Neighborhood sites are flooded with complaints. People say fireworks are causing them to lose sleep. It’s also keeping their kids awake and putting their pets into a panic. Worse, safety issues remain in play, as fireworks could cause injury to someone and/or start a fire.
“All these houses are made of wood,” Goodin said.
All fireworks are illegal in the city of Richmond. According to the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, there are some permissible fireworks in other parts of the commonwealth. But neighbors tell 8News the fireworks being shot through the air are illegal. Billy Hux, Assistant State Fire Marshal of Special Operations with Virginia Department of Fire Programs agrees.
“Anything that explodes, anything that launches into the air or moves along the ground is illegal in Virginia,” he told 8News.
Across the nation, fireworks complaints have skyrocketed. Richmond 911 doesn’t have an event type for fireworks. But 8News has learned they could come in as calls for random gunfire or unnecessary noise. Calls for both have increased over the same time from last year according to data obtained from the Department of Emergency Communications:
- Number of calls for service for random gunfire from June 1 to June 23, 2020: 706
- Number of calls for service for unnecessary noise from June 1 to June 23, 2020: 196
- Number of calls for service for random gunfire from June 1 to June 23, 2019: 599
- Number of calls for service for unnecessary noise from June 1 to June 23, 2019: 164
Richmond Police tell 8News several precincts have seen a slight uptick in calls for noise and random gunfire this past month but they’ve been unable to locate and charge anyone. Some residents say they have called the police but officers never responded.
In response to those claims, Richmond Police relayed to 8News that precincts try to respond to every call but during times of high volume, officers must respond to high priority calls first. As a result, the public is urged to call 911 to report random gunfire and/or promiscuous shootings.
For noise complaints, like fireworks, residents are asked to call the police department’s non-emergency number at (804) 646-5100.
In the meantime, Hux and his department fear that firework shows canceled this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic may lead to more folks trying to get conduct their own.
“We do have a concern with the big commercial shows being canceled that there will be an influx,” Hux said.
Last year, the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) confiscated approximately 10,000 non-permissible fireworks, either sold, used or in possession.
“This year, we are well onto that number as well,” Hux said.
SFMO has also been conducting statewide fireworks stand inspections.
“We will continue to be out enforcing over the holiday weekend,” Hux said.
Violators could be subject to a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail per item.