Lewes fireworks approach must change

June 15, 2017

An old Chinese proverb advises: Avoiding danger means knowing when to stop.

Lewes has reached that point with the unsanctioned, but tolerated, Fourth of July fireworks.

The town actually passed the danger point years ago but has rolled the dice each year, hoping that fireworks up and down the beach won't cause serious problems - serious problems such as the errant firework that set the marsh afire between canal and beach houses one July Fourth 20 or 30 years ago, or the more recent injury from a misfired firework that sent a child to the hospital.

It shouldn't take a lawsuit stemming from a similar problem, potentially costing the taxpayers of Lewes dearly, before the city takes this growing issue more seriously.

The problem, of course, is that Delaware law prohibits the sale and use of all fireworks, except for properly permitted displays. Just three weeks ahead of the holiday, the stakes increased.

A state fire marshal came before Mayor and Council reminding members that fireworks are illegal, and Lewes should not ignore the law. The town's lawyer said Lewes could be sued if an incident occurred in an atmosphere of nonenforcement, and referred to a New York state case where exactly that happened.

It's a tough problem. Time is short, and who wants to be the spoiler in a patriotic celebration?

But the city has known about this problem for years. An effort is needed to evolve the impromptu celebrations into a legal, town-sanctioned fireworks display.

For years, the impromptu displays involved a handful of Lewes Beach families - residents and taxpayers.

They have grown into a regional happening attracting people who feel they can launch illegal fireworks under the protection of Lewes' unwritten policy of nonenforcement.

Clearly, public safety issues, and liability and financial consequences for the taxpayers of Lewes, are increasing with the growing activity.

This is the year for Lewes to avoid danger by having law officers issue warnings, and tickets if necessary, to send the message that the city can no longer shoulder the responsibility for the illegal activities of residents and visitors.



  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.

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