Letter to the Editor – Edi Johnston


November 4, 2023

Letter to the Island Grapevine Editor:

Open Letter to the members of the D.I. Fire and Rescue: Re. fireworks on Denman.

Dear Denman firefighters, thank you for your unwavering and dedicated service to our community. It would appear that it has become tradition for Denman firefighters to set off the community fireworks on Halloween. As a recipient of the 2001 DI Fire Chief’s Award I would like to respectfully engage you all, on a personal level, by way of the risks vs benefits template (that all rescuers are familiar with) in hopes that perhaps you might reconsider your participation.

The risks which include, but are not limited to~

  • Children between 3-18 yrs. of age are often employed in the fireworks industry. The US Dept. of Labor reports that“children in Guatemala work long hours and are exposed to explosive chemicals such as potassium nitrate and gunpowder, which can cause skin and lung diseases and cancer”.
  • Fireworks factory explosions in 2023 alone caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of life threatening injuries in China, Thailand, India, Mexico, the US and Canada.
  • Chemicals involved in the creation, explosion and colouring of fireworks include potassium nitrate, carbon, sulfur, solid potassium carbonate, solid potassium sulfate, nitrogen gas, carbon dioxide and metal salts (all of which have negative environmental consequences). 
  • Fireworks create a toxic fog of fine particulates, poisonous aerosols and heavy metal which add to environmental pollution, are highly resistant to degradation and they easily enter and quickly accumulate in the food chain.Inhaling smoke and particulate matter from fireworks can cause an inflammatory response in the lungs, resulting in coughing, a fever and difficulty breathing” according the the National Institute of Health.
  • Humans suffering from PTSD can be triggered into negative mental health episodes and pets and wild animals panic and can experience life-threatening injuries. Wild birds will crash into power lines, automobiles, buildings, trees, and even each other. The fear and panic induced by fireworks can drive farm animals to attempt to escape the perceived threat. Horses, cattle, and sheep may attempt to jump or break through fences and gates, resulting in serious injuries such as lacerations, strains, sprains, and even broken limbs. Animals that manage to escape their enclosures are at risk of being hit by vehicles. The BC SPCA reports that “roughly 49% of dogs are fearful of loud noises such as fireworks. When frightened, dogs who are normally friendly can sometimes act out of character. This places members of the public, including children, at risk of being bitten and panicked pets that can even break through windows to escape, as well, reports of lost pets increases significantly during and after firework events”. 

Benefits~ fireworks are pretty, exciting and a tradition.

As a past volunteer firefighter, I respectfully ask that you weigh the risks vs benefits and come to your own personal conclusions as to whether or not to continue to support and participate in this tradition. “To Safely Protect Life and Property”

With the greatest of respect,

Edi Johnston   edijohnston@gmail.com

Denman Island