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North Litchfield: Homeowners want to create fireworks-free zones
By Jason Lesley
Karen Cline started a movement to begin banning fireworks from North Litchfield while she was walking her dog.
Cline, who lives with her husband, William, on Parker Drive, said she began asking full-time beachfront residents if they would sign a form to prohibit fireworks on their property. She got eight homeowners to sign up as a fireworks free zone. Next week, Georgetown County Council will consider requests from some of those homeowners to extend the fireworks bans to the beach in front of their houses.
“It’s amazing that the state of South Carolina will allow anybody at any time to do explosives in a neighborhood,” Cline said. “It’s a serious problem.”
Cline said fireworks bans on beaches at Surfside, Garden City and Litchfield By the Sea have left North Litchfield as a “forfeit beach” for people to shoot fireworks. “I’m sick of it,” she said. “We have the most beautiful beach anywhere, but it’s getting too populated. It’s time to re-think North Litchfield beach.”
Cline said she got tired of seeing trash from fireworks, including wooden launching pads, on the beach at North Litchfield and started asking residents to sign a form and become a fireworks free zone.
“They had no problem signing it,” she said. “I got eight houses without trying, just walking my dog down the street.”
She has concentrated on beachfront houses because most people go to the beach to shoot exploding rockets over the ocean. People who live a block or more off the beach say their dishes rattle after the explosions and their dogs are frightened.
John Thomas of North Litchfield said the explosive force of fireworks available to the public has risen dramatically.
“It makes us jump out of our chairs it’s so loud,” he said.
Though he is president, Thomas said he could not speak for the Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association because there is no consensus to ban fireworks among its members.
“I think the majority of people living here don’t like fireworks,” he said. “North Litchfield and Litchfield Beach are the last places people can shoot them off.”
Thomas said the county’s noise ordinance is the only means available to stop people from shooting fireworks at night.
“That requires a deputy,” he said. “We realize there are other priorities besides chasing down every firecracker that goes off.”
Thomas said he has had a lot of success by just asking people to stop shooting fireworks. When he’s unsuccessful, he calls the sheriff’s office. “It’s not the best solution,” he said, “but it’s the only one we have.”
Thomas doesn’t expect every beachfront homeowner to agree to becoming a fireworks free zone, but Litchfield by the Sea didn’t get 100 percent either.
“There are some people who think this ought to be a place to shoot fireworks,” he said. “There needs to be a balance where visitors can have fun and residents have life, liberty and peace and quiet.”
Bill McElroy, president of the Litchfield by the Sea Community Association, estimated that as much as 95 percent of fireworks from past years has been eliminated. “Fourth of July was kind of a problem,” he said.
McElroy said his group has offered to help North Litchfield residents through the process of becoming a fireworks free zone, even though there are no guarantees. “Some people will shoot them where they’re not supposed to,” he said. “I’m not sure they are all vacationers.”
He said visitors from other states where fireworks are illegal load up in South Carolina. “They come in with a trunkload and park under the buildings,” McElroy said. “If that would catch fire, it would bring the whole building down.”
Before the ban, visitors to Litchfield by the Sea would pull wagonloads of fireworks to the beach, McElroy said.
He’s been aware of the danger since a cousin was blinded many years ago when someone threw a firecracker into a fireworks stand where he worked and caused an explosion.
“What we need is for the county to pass a fireworks law,” McElroy said.
Meanwhile, establishing fireworks free zones is the only alternative for North Litchfield.
“We hope they are successful,” McElroy said.