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Explosive display . . . Fireworks light up the night sky. PHOTO: COURIER FILES

by Chris Tobin

The days of selling fireworks to the public and the marking of Guy Fawkes could be numbered.

The Timaru District Council is among councils around the country which supported a remit from Auckland Council that Local Government New Zealand work with central government to introduce legislation to ban the sale of fireworks to the general public and to end their private use.

An 18,000-signature petition was presented to Parliament last December seeking a total ban on fireworks.

Last year, fireworks set alight a sizeable section of hedge at the Phar Lap Raceway.

“We attend a number of accidental and sometimes malicious fires caused by fireworks,” Timaru Senior Station Officer Martyn Bennett said.

He stressed the importance of people taking every precaution with fireworks.

“We’d prefer people went to a public display rather than have them at home.

“If people have them at home they must make sure they read the instructions properly and have water handy.

“Pets should also be kept inside.

“People must also use the fireworks for what they’re designed for rather than alternate ways.

“And if there are high winds on Guy Fawkes Night, we’d prefer they skip it and do it another night.”

This year, Timaru Boys’ High School will not be running its Fireworks Bonanza Gala night, which has featured for a number of years.

“Whilst the fireworks has been well supported and enjoyed by our local community, it has become increasingly challenging to arrange such a big event with an ever-decreasing number of committee members,” PTA spokeswoman Sally Hilton said.

“Spring weather is also so variable and can make or break the event, which ultimately is a fundraising event for the Timaru Boys’ High School PTA.

“We have moved into less risky areas for our fundraising that are manageable with the number of volunteers we have,” she said.

Fireworks can only be sold from four days before Guy Fawkes.

Fire and Emergency NZ national adviser, fire risk management, Peter Gallagher said over three days during last year’s Guy Fawkes period, crews responded to more than 56 fireworks-related fire incidents nationwide, some of which were large fires.

One of these was a scrub fire that resulted in the evacuation of six homes at Lake Hawea, near Wanaka. Five helicopters carrying monsoon buckets and 10 fire appliances had to be deployed to control the fire, which spread across 10 hectares of hillside forest.

Origin

Guy Fawkes is observed on November 5 and is a English tradition that was brought to New Zealand. It originated from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed conspiracy by a group of provincial English Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic head of state.

Guy Fawkes was caught guarding gunpowder placed beneath the House of Lords and arrested. The public celebrated the king’s survival by lighting bonfires, often with effigies of Fawkes on top of them. Fawkes and his accomplices were executed.

In recent years the popularity of Guy Fawkes has been challenged by the rise of Halloween, which is held on October 31, and dates back to an ancient pagan Celtic festival first celebrated almost 2000 years ago.