The aftermath of fireworks, Fernwood resident David Boudinot found this burned-out garbage can full of firework remnants early on the morning after Halloween. (David Boudinot Photo)

The aftermath of fireworks, Fernwood resident David Boudinot found this burned-out garbage can full of firework remnants early on the morning after Halloween. (David Boudinot Photo)

Spike in Greater Victoria fireworks a response to COVID, says fire chief

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From Saanich to the West Shore, the number of fireworks being set off were above normal on Halloween night.

Complaints varied. Fireworks rained down across pockets of the City of Victoria despite the fact fireworks are banned and there are no special permits.

It was relatively quiet in Oak Bay, though social media was alive with reports of fireworks in neighbouring pockets of Victoria – South Jubilee, North Park, Fernwood, and James Bay.

Katie Fillion of the North Park Neighbourhood Association lives near Royal Athletic Park where fireworks cracked “late into the night.” Same for David Boudinot, who witnessed ongoing fireworks at or near George Jay elementary. In the morning, Boudinot came across a burned-out garbage can riddled with remnants of fireworks at the Fernwood Community Centre.

Despite that, Bill Eisenhauer, head of City of Victoria’s engagement department, said there were few if any complaints to the city.

READ ALSO: Late-night fire tears through Victoria hotel

In Colwood and Saanich it was a different story.

“For a lot of people, I think the fireworks this year was a way to relieve the stress of COVID,” said Colwood Fire Chief John Cassidy. “There were a fair number in Colwood and within earshot [of the station].”

Colwood had 30 people participate in the fireworks safety course and awarded 23 permits which is more than double the normal amount of about eight to 10, Cassidy said. The only call they responded to on Halloween was a smoldering dumpster fire.

The fire chief couldn’t say with certainty that he heard fireworks beyond the 23 permits but guessed that was likely the case. It was a throwback to the years previous to 2006 when his fire department partnered with the Colwood and the West Shore RCMP to change the bylaw.

“It was pretty rowdy back then,” Cassidy said. “[This year] we expected that a lot of people using fireworks as stress belief because of COVID. We anticipated fireworks as part of some [informal] block parties, people staying within their bubbles, and we had a fair number of that.”

READ ALSO: Oak Bay Police welcome former firefighter as new officer

Parts of Saanich were alight with fireworks, many of them legal, as the district awarded 91 fireworks permits. It also awarded 80 bonfire permits.

Saanich police spokesperson Sgt. Markus Anastasiades said they received a higher than normal call volume on Halloween regarding fireworks. That included two dangerous incidents, one in which someone from a group of youths at the University of Victoria directed and discharged a firework at approaching Saanich police officers. The other was the arrest of an 18-year-old man who is facing charges of assault with a weapon, causing bodily harm and obstructing police, after a woman was severely burned on her legs.

Perhaps overlooked by non-pet owners was the effect of the fireworks on dogs and cats. The fact Halloween fell on a Saturday, and that municipalities had to cancel their traditional events, led to private gatherings, said Leslie Steeves of local Facebook group ROAM, that re-unites lost pets with owners.

“The problem was people didn’t know who and when neighbours were going to set off fireworks, and didn’t know when to put the pets inside,” Steeves said.

ROAM reunited 11 dogs between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 and are happy to report that none were still missing from Halloween, though signs remained up on Nov. 6 that Gary the cat is still missing from North Park.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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