Some local fireworks shops may be in for a blasting.
A handful of seasonal pop-up stores in south Vancouver are selling fireworks to customers without requesting to see the necessary permits and identification required by law.
To purchase fireworks, Vancouver residents must be 19 years old and produce a city-issued permit plus two pieces of identification. But when The Voice went undercover to stores in the area, four out of the five retailers failed to ask for any documentation and reporters obtained fireworks by simply paying and leaving.
“It is disturbing to hear that you have been able to make purchases at four locations without being asked for a permit or I.D.,” said Rob Renning, assistant chief of fire prevention with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, who added his department will be launching an investigation into these particular retailers.
Prior to this year, the department only inspected stores at random but are now in the process of inspecting all 60 stores in Vancouver by Halloween.
“These locations that are in violation of the city bylaws are at risk of having their permits rescinded and could possibly face prosecution,” said Renning by email.
Private firework displays are an annual tradition in Vancouver and a popular way to celebrate both Halloween and the Indian new year, Diwali. Retailers can sell fireworks for one week a year from Oct. 25 to 31 but fireworks are only permitted to be discharged on one day, Halloween, according to city bylaw.
Stores complying with permit bylaw are in the minority
While all fireworks retailers are trying to make the most of this one week, some are abiding by the rules.
“If you don’t have a permit, you cannot purchase any fireworks from our store,” said Mony Sodhi, owner of M & M Fireworks Factory, the one store that denied to sell fireworks to The Voice reporters for failing to disclose a permit.
“If people don’t have it printed, or on their phone or email, or they’re reluctant to show us, we ask them to come back,” said Sodhi, who provides a computer in every one of his stores, which customers can use to instantly register for permits. He says most people think there is a cost for permits but are surprised to discover they’re actually free.
Sodhi knows other stores are breaking the rules but he doesn’t want to risk his business, which he started five years ago with his cousin, Mike. They began with just one store and have now expanded to seven locations across the city. “At the end of the day, as long as my company and our stores are following the rules and regulations, then that’s all that matters.”
Reported by Angie Holubowich and Jana Minor
Podcast: Listen in as our undercover reporters try to purchase fireworks without a permit and hear the response from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.