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Shrewsbury garden blaze sparks debate on banning fireworks for public use

By Thom Kennedy | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

It should perhaps come as no surprise that when you send hundreds of explosives whizzing through the skies above urban areas, you'll get a few fires.

Damage caused by the blaze in Monkmoor, Shrewsbury

Bonfire night's passing for another year doesn't necessarily mean we have heard the last rocket whistling through the streets.

Over the weekend, two gardens in Monkmoor, Shrewsbury, were set alight when a stray firework hit the side of one of the houses – and that has ignited a debate over whether private displays should be permitted.

Kelly Jones and her six-year-old daughter had to flee their home when flames swept through their garden after a rogue firework hit their house.

Now Kelly is calling for a blanket ban on all private firework displays and urging people to support a petition to ban them.

Kelly Jones and her daughter Madison fled their home when flames swept through the garden after a rogue firework hit their house

Hundreds of people voted in a Shropshire Star poll on whether there should be a ban on selling fireworks to the general public.

James Bainbridge is a prevention team manager with Shropshire Fire and Rescue based in Shrewsbury, and is involved in the annual attempt to prevent bonfires and fireworks displays from ending up in chaos.

"Clearly there's a tradition that people like to uphold," he said. "We can all cast our minds back to when we were kids putting spuds on the bonfire and setting off a few rockets.

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"But over time the size of people's gardens has reduced. Houses are closer together, but people still want sheds and garden furniture, so the opportunity for fires to spread is greater than it was.

"At the same time, people seem to be getting more ambitious with their fires and displays – what used to be a £10 box from Tesco is now a display sized firework in a residential street. The opportunity is there for it to go wrong."

In truth, the number of significant fires in Shropshire is not particularly high when compared to larger metropolitan areas like Manchester. Between last Friday and Fireworks Night itself on Monday, the county's fire department responded to 33 incidents relating to bonfires and fireworks.

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But among them was that dramatic blaze in Monkmoor.

"That was a pretty exceptional incident in terms of its size," said Shropshire Fire and Rescue communications officer Malcolm Stevenson.

"Six appliances and 30 firefighters attended."

That Shropshire Star poll suggests that many people agree that selling fireworks to the general public should be a no-go. With hundreds of people pitching in to have their say, 70 per cent agreed that shops should not be free to hand over the explosives to any Tom, Dick and Harry.

"Selling fireworks to the public should be banned," said one web commenter, Emma Shepherd.

"There are so many injuries/accidents caused by fireworks and the consequences can be catastrophic."

But others argue that a ban would actually create more danger.

"Banning fireworks would only mean folk who wanted them would buy them on the black market or get them from abroad," wrote Dave Roberts.

"At least buying from ASDA etc they will be from proper manufacturers."

But Monkmoor mum Kelly insists a blanket ban on all private fireworks displays is necessary to save lives. She is urging people to sign an online petition calling on the government to ban the sale of fireworks to the general public, which has already gathered more than 108,000 signatures.

Warn

"People are so stupid when it comes to fireworks," she said. "All I want is to warn people about how dangerous they can be. If you have got a small contained garden just don't do it.

"Fireworks should be banned unless they are at a proper organised event, with people who know what they are doing. I want to fight this all the way to Number 10."

Chris Phillips, a paramedic working for Telford-based medical supplies company SP Services, said: "The number of fireworks-related incidents that we attend is low, but the risk of home displays is certainly high.

"I attended one incident in which a male had received a burn to his hand after incorrectly handling a firework. The risk of injury when operating a home display is high."

Mr Stevenson added: "I think there's a trend towards families attending more organised events. For one reason, they are just better, but the cost of fireworks is also prohibitively high, and at those events there's just more going on. You can eat and drink and have a good time – they are complete events with a carnival atmosphere."

Additional reporting by Rory Smith

Thom Kennedy

By Thom Kennedy
Business Editor - @tkennedy_star

Shropshire Star Business Editor

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