Private fireworks a no-go on New Year's Eve in Anchorage

Tegan Hanlon
Bob Hallinen

In Anchorage, you can't set off private fireworks legally -- ever. Not in 2013, not in 2014 and certainly not when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve.

There was a brief period when a city ordinance allowed for Roman candles, bottle rockets and sparklers on private property during a quick window from 9:30 p.m. New Year's Eve to 1 a.m. New Year's Day.

But that was in 2010 and 2011. The ordinance expired and it wasn't renewed last year. The noisy backyard entertainment didn't get great feedback from some neighbors, according to city lawmakers.

Assemblyman Dick Traini was the man behind fireworks legalization. He spearheaded the 2010 ordinance that allowed for the fireworks dispensation.

"It was only for three hours New Year's Eve," Traini said Friday. "And you know, three hours in the entire year, that's not that much time. But there was a lot of people who wanted to use the fireworks. Anchorage lit up the first two years."

And, boy, did the sparks fly with pet owners.

Traini said he fielded two years of complaints about dogs and cats that did not take well to the explosive booms, pops and hisses. He even got a call about a pony that lost bladder control in a local living room.

In 2011, the fireworks law got a little tighter and forbade people from using them within 200 feet of a neighbor's house instead of the original 50-foot easement.

When the law's two-year life span came to an end, Traini had an ordinance ready in 2012 to keep the New Year's fireworks legal but he pulled it. He said he didn't bring one to the Assembly this year because he didn't think he'd have the votes.

Assemblyman Patrick Flynn said he knew the fireworks law was going to be a disaster. His suspicions were confirmed when by noon on New Year's Day in 2012 his inbox was flooded by nearly 60 emails. Pet owners were angry and so were residents who had post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's not that fireworks are bad per se," Flynn said. "But there are certain knuckleheads who don't know how to practice a certain degree of civil restraint."

If you set off fireworks without a permit in Anchorage, you could face a citation and a fine.

Robert Hall, owner of Gorilla Fireworks, knows a thing or two about explosives. He also knows the law.

His roadside establishment in Houston is the closest fireworks purveyor to Anchorage. Hall said he tells customers that fireworks are illegal within the city limits.

"There's quite a few (customers) from Anchorage; we just assume they're all taking them to their cabin," Hall said.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, with some restrictions, has legalized personal fireworks between 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. on New Year's Eve. They are illegal to launch the rest of the year.

For Hall, business booms more on the days nearing New Year's Eve than July 4. Setting off fireworks is safer in the snowy cold than in dry summer months. Still, he warned that even though fireworks "look beautiful, they are not toys."

"The key really is: sober, responsible, adult supervision," Hall said. "And don't be an idiot. Don't shoot them off past 1 a.m. Be a good neighbor."

Reach Tegan Hanlon at or 257-4589.