fireworks toronto

Toronto to increase enforcement following uptick in illegal use of fireworks

If you're wondering how people in Toronto have been spending their time throughout the past year of lockdown measures and public health restrictions, it seems some have been staying occupied by setting off illegal fireworks.

The city has strict fireworks laws that only permit the use of them on Victoria Day and Canada Day unless a special permit is obtained, but a new report shows that the illegal use of fireworks and related safety incidents increased substantially over the summer of 2020.

"Through the review, staff found that there was a notable increase in unpermitted fireworks use and emergency incidents related to fireworks during the 2020 warm-weather season, compared to previous years," reads the report. 

"Staff believe this is due to factors related to the pandemic, including more residents staying home in the city, cancellation of other events and City and community fireworks displays, and redeployment of enforcement resources to enforce public health measures and provincial emergency orders."

They also anticipate "similar conditions during the 2021 warm-weather season."

According to the report, there were 172 fireworks-related incidents in 2020, up from 81 in 2019, but thankfully the number of fire incidents where the ignition source was identified as fireworks remained stagnant with just four incidents in both years.

Complaints, however, also rose in 2020, with 123 fireworks-related complaints under the parks bylaw made in 2020 compared with just 36 in 2019.

But while part of the problem may be willful disobedience, a public survey conducted for the report also revealed an overall lack of awareness of Toronto's current fireworks rules.

Some 40-45 per cent of respondents said they weren't aware of Toronto's rules about when or where fireworks can be used and another 26 per cent said they were only somewhat aware.

The city was also considering an overhaul of fireworks restrictions at one time, but staff found through the review process that Toronto's fireworks rules are "comprehensive and currently align with surrounding jurisdictions," and that "incidents and service requests related to fireworks appear localized in a small number of wards bordering Lake Ontario."

As a result, instead of overhauling the rules, staff are recommending an action plan to increase education and enforcement surrounding the city's fireworks laws — set to begin just in time for Victoria Day, Toronto's first designated fireworks holiday.

"The proposed action plan will include a suite of enhanced public education and outreach initiatives, complemented by data-driven priority-based enforcement in areas where the most issues have occurred," reads the report. 

"Staff will also review current fireworks-related set fines, and apply to the Province of Ontario to increase fine amounts, as needed."

Measures featured in the proposed action plan include a paid digital ad campaign, a social media campaign, news releases issued prior to designated fireworks dates, a revamped City of Toronto fireworks webpage and an updated 311 knowledge base.

The plan also encourages vendor outreach/education and the exploration of opportunities to provide information about bylaws prohibiting fireworks use in parks.

"Key messages will include when and where residents can use fireworks, with an emphasis on public areas where fireworks are not allowed (parks, schools, and roadways)," notes the report.

"Additionally, the education campaign will raise awareness of safe discharge of fireworks, how to properly dispose of used fireworks, low-noise fireworks, and fireworks impacts on pets and wildlife."

Lead photo by

Katrin Shumakov

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