City reviewing fireworks regulations: Clarksville Police report big increase in calls for service

On July 16th, in a public release, Police Chief David Crockarell called the “volume” of available fireworks “intense” and stated the “Clarksville Police Department would be in favor of perhaps limiting the number of tents allowed and in restricting sales dates and the days when they can be used.” Currently, state law only allows the sale of fireworks from June 20th to July 5th and December 10th to January 2nd. The use of fireworks is also already forbidden except between July 1-5 from 6:00-10:00 pm and December 28 to January 1st from 6:00 pm to 12:00 midnight.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Joe Pitts met with Clarksville public safety agencies this week to review fireworks regulations after the City experienced an increase in fireworks-related calls for service and property damage around the recent Fourth of July holiday.

“With problems increasing, I think it’s time to evaluate our options to find a more reasonable approach to our fireworks regulations,” Mayor Pitts said. “I want to reach out to the businesses and organizations involved in fireworks sales, and listen to their perspectives, too.”

Police Chief David Crockarell said that fireworks-related calls for service jumped to 670 in the period from May 15 to July 15, up from a rate of 300-350 over the same period from 2016-19. One of those calls resulted in an ongoing arson investigation after a residence was hit by fireworks and burned. Some of the calls resulted in custodial arrests.

“It was pretty crazy. In some cases, people were bragging on social media about stealing fireworks and setting up fireworks battles,” Crockarell said. “We had instances of fireworks being shot at houses.”

Fire Marshal Ricky Cumberland told the mayor that property damage from fireworks this year totaled more than $250,000. In one instance, fireworks caused a major injury to a juvenile who is still undergoing medical treatment, he said.

Officials noted that 50 fireworks tents obtained seasonal sales permits and set up shop in Clarksville this year. Five regional operators account for the majority of the tent permits, with one company responsible for 24 outlets in the City, Cumberland said. 

State law allows such outlets to sell fireworks from June 20 to July 5, and from Dec. 10 to Jan 2. Two other outlets have annual licenses, which allow them to sell fireworks throughout the year. City code restricts the use of Class C consumer fireworks in Clarksville between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m. from July 1 to July 5 and from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1.  On New Year’s Eve, fireworks can be used from 6 p.m. to midnight.

“The volume of what’s available is intense,” Police Chief Crockarell said. “CPD would be in favor of perhaps limiting the number of tents allowed and in restricting sales dates and the days when they can be used.”

In discussion, officials noted that COVID-19 public health measures may have played a role in more intense fireworks-related activity this year.

“The traditional big public fireworks displays being canceled probably had something to do with it,” Cumberland said. “And maybe there was some pent-up energy from people being locked down because of the pandemic.”

Regardless of the reasons for the uptick, Mayor Pitts said he was alarmed by the surge in the number of calls for service and the apparent violent nature of some of the fireworks-related activity. He also noted receiving plenty of feedback from citizens who complained about the increased noise and litter associated with fireworks this year.

Trish Butler

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