NIGHT LIGHTS: Should fireworks be cancelled in drought conditions?
NIGHT LIGHTS: Should fireworks be cancelled in drought conditions? Tiffany Schelberg

Should fireworks be banned during high fire danger?

AS BUSHFIRES burn across a region gripped by prolonged drought conditions, questions are starting to be asked about the reasoning behind community events featuring fireworks displays.

Over recent weeks the Bureau of Meteorology said the Northern Rivers region has experienced very high fire danger with a higher-than-average number of total fire bans which prohibit fire or incendiaries of any sort.

However a number of local councils have listed fireworks displays at upcoming community events, despite outrage from residents.

The Northern Star asked Facebook readers whether they believed fireworks should go ahead in current conditions and the majority of respondents said no.

Grace Cahill said she believes event organisers should "find another way to celebrate, maybe donate the money to the bushfire appeal", while Rose Moxon suggested the possibility of a laser show instead.

Barney Lund said he disagrees with fireworks displays going ahead, and said they were a "waste of money and very inappropriate at this time".

Ally Rice-Finlayson said the money should be used for something else and "it's frivolous when there are so many in need", while Dylan Keehn said "I think they should go ahead. Everyone just likes to jump on the bandwagon that's all".

However NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Bradstreet said while he understands the community's frustration, he said there were options for fireworks displays to go ahead safely in these conditions.

Mr Bradstreet said even on days of total fire bans certain events can apply for an exemption in order for fireworks displays to go ahead.

"In days of high fire danger, and especially conditions such as we are in now, we want to manage the risk of new fires starting," he said.

"That's why we put total fire bans in place. However there are avenues for people to get exemptions on days of total fire ban."

Mr Bradstreet said the applicant event will undergo a rigorous risk assessment to determine the safety of the fireworks displays.

"If the risk is manageable, and we can be assured there will be no new fires sparked by those fireworks, that event can be granted an exemption," he said.

"But it is important for people to know these exemptions only come after a very thorough risk assessment."

According to the NSW RFS website, a minimum of seven days processing time is required for the organisation to assess an exemption application, meaning event organisers must be prepared well in advance.

What did our councils say?

Lismore City Council said they have now cancelled the fireworks planned for the Carols in the Heart event due to the drought and bushfire conditions. "Additional activities and entertainment will be programmed to compensate," a council spokeswoman said. "There may be other events run by private companies in the region where fireworks are planned, but whether or not these go ahead is at the discretion of the event organisers."

Richmond Valley Council said: "This year's Richmond Valley Christmas tree light up and street party will not feature fireworks this year. We will be speaking with other event organisers about their plans".

Ballina Shire Council said: "Any decision would be made in consultation with the RFS and be subject to prevailing weather conditions. We would take direction and advice from the RFS."

Kyogle Council said: "Council has never planned or undertaken an event that involved fireworks, and there has been no discussion of any being proposed in the future".

Byron Shire Council said: "SafeWork NSW issues licences for fireworks. Our councillors may have a personal view on this. Generally council is not a supporter of fireworks."

Tenterfield Shire Council has not responded at the time of publication.

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