Columbia police brace for annual fireworks war

Warn residents against participating

Columbia police brace for annual fireworks war

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The so-called Columbia Fireworks War is a longstanding tradition, dating back almost 20 years. It happens annually on the Fourth of July and is a dangerous combination of smoke, fire and bodies.

"People choose to do it, it's kind of a 'cool' thing to them," said Community Outreach Unit Supervisor Sgt. Mike Hestir. "It's just against the law in Columbia." 

Today, Hestir and Officer Andrea Heese pounded the pavement on Rice Road, warning people against using illegal fireworks in the days leading up to the Fourth of July.

"As we were going around door-to-door, educating neighbors about the ordinances, several informed us about a fireworks war that happened on their street last night," said Heese.

A garage door was badly burned, but no one was injured. If they were, Heese said that could be an assault charge, because the fireworks are being shot intentionally at other people.

"It's a dangerous instrument being shot at somebody, especially if it's somebody who's not participating in their war, like a kid," she said. "There were several kids on this street last night."

The traditional Como Fireworks War has taken a toll on the neighborhood in which it takes place on the north side of town. Usually, groups descend on the Bodie Drive and Currituck Lane area. Hestir said that Columbia police stepped up their presence in the area the past few years because, while they can't prevent it, they can enforce the laws.

"I bet we had 50 people tells us 'Thanks for coming out here, we can actually BBQ this Fourth of July without getting shot at'," Hestir recalled. "People told us they could let their kids and dogs out for the first time on Fourth of July, because typically what was happening was they were having to stay shuttered into their house, because they didn't want to be part of the craziness."

Last year, the event didn't happen until the early hours of the morning on July 5 because police were patrolling the area for so long.

The people participating shoot at each other and cars with fireworks typically reserved for large-scale fireworks shows.

"I've been contacted by people who professionally shoot fireworks who encourage us to arrest people doing this because it's so dangerous," said Hestir.

It's also very illegal. That's why Hestir and Heese took to the streets Monday to let people know. Community Outreach officers will be going door-to-door the rest of the week, handing out fliers to remind people of the fireworks ordinances in Columbia.

"My message to anybody that wants to shoot fireworks, who know it's illegal and they're going to do it anyway or have always done it: It's illegal in the city limits of Columbia," said Hestir. "You might get away with it and you might get arrested. Don't be mad at the cops if they show up and enforce the laws."

It's against the law to have, light, shoot or use any fireworks, except sparklers, in the city limits. Anyone who possesses or discharges fireworks in the city limits can be arrested.

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