Fireworks or Gunfire? Des Moines Police Say Call Them Either Way

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Des Moines Police are telling residents to call them this Independence Day if they hear fireworks or gunfire -- even if they aren't completely sure which is which.

According to Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek there is a difference in the two sounds.

“They sound very similar and when you are talking about the succession of the explosion or the distance you are from the explosion actually occurs it is hard to make that distinction,” Parizek said.

Parizek said there are different precautions when someone calls for a “shots fired” vs. a “firework” sound.

“We just want you to call. Whatever you think it is, give us a call and we will send somebody out there. We would rather not miss something now and then find out later that it was in fact gunfire when somebody just assumes it is fireworks,” Parizek said.

Parizek said when you call, specify the sound you think you hear. That will determine how many officers will arrive on scene.

In 2017 the Iowa Legislature lifted the ban on fireworks, allowing individual cities to set their own fireworks rules.

According to Des Moines Police on July 4th in 2017 there were 270 calls made to police about fireworks.

In 2018 the city of Des Moines prohibited the use of fireworks. According to Des Moines Police there were over 500 calls related to fireworks on July 4th of that year.

Parizek said there were no citations or arrests in 2018 from fireworks.

“What we need to make that successful and go through the court process is we need a complaining witness. We need the person in the neighborhood who has actually witnessed this happen and who is filing the complaint with us to jump on board and help us as we follow through the court process. Without that complaining witness and without us witnessing it ourselves it’s virtually something you cannot prosecute,” Parizek said.

Parizek said if you receive a citation the fine can cost up to $625.

“The potential for civil liability if you damage somebody else’s property is there. It would be no different if you threw a rock through their window. If you are setting off fireworks the potential to cause damage to someone else’s property if there and you most likely could be held responsible for it,” Parizek said.

This year there will be added police officers in the city to answer firework calls.

It is legal to set fireworks off in unincorporated Polk County, Ankeny, Pleasant Hill, Waukee, and Bondurant.

According to the National Safety Council has some firework safety tips: never point the firework at someone or something, never light them indoors, keep a bucket of water or hose and a fire extinguisher nearby, and light the device a safe distance away from people, a house and flammable material.

Communities that prohibit fireworks include Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive, Johnston, Windsor Heights, Altoona, and Urbandale.

Check your city’s website to see if they are legal to use on the 4th of July.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.