Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Explosions Shake Coeur d'Alene Place Home

On November 3, 2006, our home in Coeur d'Alene Place was shaken by a series of explosions. Let me be very clear here. Though the explosions were extraordinarily loud, I didn't just hear them. I felt them. They sharply jolted our house. There were at least six explosions (I lost count) between 6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. The first explosion jarred our house so severely that I ran outside expecting to see that a car or truck had struck the house or there had been a natural gas explosion. All subsequent explosions shook our house as intensely as the first. After one of the explosions I called 9-1-1 and was told by the public safety answering point (PSAP) calltaker that the explosions were a "fireworks" display at the Lake City High School football game. The calltaker told me a permit had been issued for the display.

When we moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in August 2000, we knew and readily accepted that outdoor events on and around the Lake City High School fields would generate a certain amount of noise from bands, public address announcements, vehicles, spectators, and participants. But using explosives to produce blast waves that shake our house or other nearby homes once or several times is neither normally nor appropriately associated with school events.

On the following day, Saturday, November 4, 2006, I walked through an open gate onto the field where the explosives had been detonated. It was easy to identify the explosive discharge site by the yellow barrier tape and some wrappers from the explosive materials.

Standing at the explosive discharge site, I had a clear view of our house approximately 600 feet away. The few intervening trees and berm insufficiently attenuated the propagation of the blast waves that struck our house so forcefully. A blast wave is defined by the US Department of Defense as "A sharply defined wave of increased pressure rapidly propagated through a surrounding medium from a center of detonation or similar disturbance." Readers are referred to the American Pyrotechnics Association's Glossary of Pyrotechnic Terms for other pyrotechnic terminology used in this blog post.

It is important to very clearly understand that "fireworks" are federally classified and regulated explosives. The National Council on Fireworks Safety explains it this way. "Fireworks are classified as 'explosive' for transportation purposes, under regulations of the U.S.Department of Transportation (DOT), because of the chemical compositions contained in fireworks devices. Other Federal agencies use the DOT system and definitions in their regulations affecting the fireworks industry." The display fireworks used on November 3 at Lake City High School were classified as Division 1.3G, formerly known as Class B special fireworks. Fireworks are explosives.

People too often trivialize the dangers associated with "fireworks". For a more detailed discussion, see my post of June 30, 2005, titled Harmless Fireworks or Lethal Explosives? Even when being handled by skilled, trained, and disciplined pyrotechnicians or explosive ordnance disposal technicians, fireworks are lethal explosives. Doubt that? Read the June 30 Whitecaps post entitled What Happened in Worley? The explosive materials used in fireworks require the safest storage, handling, and transportation.

On Tuesday, November 7, 2006, I was reading the Coeur d'Alene City Council agenda for that evening's meeting. Consent Calendar item 4 stated, "Ratifying approval of Fireworks Display at Lake City High School for Friday, November 3, 2006." That item raised several questions. First, since Council approval for the explosions was evidently required or it wouldn't have been sought, when did deliberation and voting on it occur? Second, why was this item on the Consent Calendar for "ratification?" The Consent Calendar is for items considered routine by the City Council. All the items are grouped and enacted by one motion "...unless requested by a Councilman or a citizen that one or more items be removed for later discussion." My immediate reaction was that while the Coeur d'Alene City Council might consider it routine to quietly and privately issue a permit allowing someone to shake my house with explosives, fray my nerves, and terrify our pet, I did not.

On Tuesday, November 7, I composed and sent via certified US mail a letter to Coeur d'Alene School District 271 Superintendent Harry Amend and to Coeur d'Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers. A copy of the letter was sent to Greenstone Homes, the homeowner's association for Coeur d'Alene Place. One purpose of the letter was to first complain about the inappropriate use of explosives at a school event and to protest the City of Coeur d'Alene's allowing their use to occur without all the appropriate permits. The second purpose was to gather some more detailed information about the use of the explosives to better determine if proper safety measures had been followed. The letters articulated my complaint and requested that both the School District and the City of Coeur d'Alene to provide some specific information pursuant to the Idaho Public Records Law. The School District's and the City's responses to my letter will be discussed later in this post.

Since the City Council was meeting that same evening, I decided to attend the meeting, read a statement during public comments, request the City Council withdraw Consent Calendar item 4, and schedule its discussion at a later date after it had the opportunity to review my letter. Prior to attending the meeting, I went to the City's website and downloaded the two pieces of paper comprising the application for the pyrotechnic permit. Those were the same items Council members received as part of their meeting preparation package. During my five-minute statement to the Council, I stated my complaint using the facts cited above. I referred Council to each document and pointed out the clear deficiencies on each.

The first document was on letterhead labeled City of Coeur d'Alene - Office of City Clerk. (I have obscured the personal telephone numbers even though they were part of the public document.) It was a form clearly designed and intended to be used to apply for operation of a fireworks stand and not for a pyrotechnic display or other explosions. Remember, this document was in the City Council's package for the November 7 Council meeting (four days after the incident). With that in mind, note at the bottom of the form that the City Council Approval Date, Date to Fire Dept., Final Inspection completed, and Bond returned lines are blank. Note, too, that this form was signed and presumably dated on 10/13/06, three weeks before the proposed event. That date is important, because City Code Section 8.12.040B requires, "Any person desiring to make a public display of special fireworks, other than nonaerial common fireworks, within the City shall file his application for a permit with the City Clerk at least twenty (20) days in advance of the proposed event."

The second document was on letterhead labeled Coeur d'Alene Fire Prevention Bureau Office. Pay particular attention to the form's instruction which reads, "Please describe all operations and installations requiring a permit. ... all operations and processes must be described below." I question that the eight-word hand written response on the line below sufficiently describes all operations and processes. Directly below the space allocated for that description was a certification required by the City. Read the certification carefully and you will see its clear intent is to hold the applicant accountable for conforming. Now look where the applicant's signature should be, and you will see this form was not signed by the applicant. Why did the person accepting the application on behalf of the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau Office not require the applicant, identified on the Clerk's form as Bill Reagan, to sign this form? Yet the date indicates the form was signed on 10/13/06. The absence of essential information, including the applicant's signature, should have invalidated this application. Again, this document was in the City Council's package for the November 7 Council meeting, yet just as in the City Clerk's form, the bottom of this form indicates no receipt was ever issued (although what appears to be a check number was printed above this item). The person who collected the fee on behalf of the City was not identified, although presumably that person was "Cashier". The information about the inspection was blank. It is crucial to note that according to the Coeur d'Alene Fire Prevention Bureau Office's own form given to the City Council on November 7, 2006, no permit issuance or expiration dates were entered.

Not included in the package given to the City Council on November 7, 2006, was a copy of the actual pyrotechnic display permit. Was one issued? Was the applicant just given a verbal approval? The City's own records don't answer those questions.

The deficiencies in process noted above might be dismissed as carelessness and sloppiness by the City Clerk's office and the Fire Department's Fire Prevention Bureau Office. However, for both the City Clerk's office and the Fire Department to totally ignore the City Code's clear requirement for a blasting permit for this event goes far beyond carelessness and sloppiness.

Coeur d'Alene City Code 15.06 is titled "Fire Safety." Section 15.06.060 describes the circumstances under which explosives may be used in the City of Coeur d'Alene. Section 15.06.060 B reads: "Permit Required. A blasting permit shall be required prior to the use of any explosive within the city. Permits will be issued by the fire department after compliance with the requirements of this section (emphasis mine)." This ordinance makes no distinction among or between classes of explosives. It is clear that the blasting ordinance as written, passed, and enacted applies to fireworks or pyrotechnic displays as well as other applications of explosives because as explained earlier, fireworks are explosives.

Because the applicant for the November 3 pyrotechnic display at Lake City High School failed to obtain all the proper permits, the Fire Department was obligated to forbid the pyrotechnic display until the proper permits had been obtained and the City Code-prescribed safety procedures implemented. During my comments to the City Council meeting on November 7, I pointedly asked the Mayor and Council if the applicant had obtained the required blasting permit. None of them answered. Again, no blasting permit or supporting applications and paperwork were in the Council's meeting package.

Immediately after I finished reading my statement to the City Council, the following exchange occurred:

Mayor Bloem: Thank you. Any questions? Dixie?

Councilmember Dixie Reid: Oh, I guess my question would be, what purpose does it serve to not to ratify something that we have already, um, that we've already done? I don't understand your purpose, Bill.

Bill McCrory: It's a good question, because I don't understand myself why the Council is ratifying an event that's already occurred. What the ratification process involves or why it's even being done. Uh, that would be a question I'd have.

Councilmember Dixie Reid: I can answer part of that question for you. The Council was called and asked if we would, um we don't vote over the phone but, what we thought of it, if they could go ahead and issue it and we could ratify it this evening. And the majority of the Council said yes.

Bill McCrory: Okay...

Councilmember Dixie Reid: Because it was something for the high school and sometimes those things come up at the last minute and so that's why it's on the Consent Calendar and why the Council, why it happened without coming through this body.

Bill McCrory: My concern is very personal. It was our house that was shaken. It was our house that was jolted. I have an extensive background in explosives. I have a pretty good idea why it happened. I'm very concerned, as the letter will indicate when it arrives, about the safety measures the operator, that is, the pyrotechnician or the company that did the pyrotechnics, followed. Their procedure should have prevented that from happening. Um, there are a number of things that professional pyrotechnicians do that should have prevented that from happening and it didn't. My concern is that if the City doesn't closely monitor what these people do, and I don't know who the applicant is, it's a gentleman named Bill Reagan or Reagan (note: alternate pronunciation). I don't know his background in pyrotechnics; I suspect it's not very much, because he's not associated with the company out of Olympia that actually did the display. But it really probably serves no purpose other than to say there is a letter coming. You might want to consider some of the things in there, particularly for future actions. Maybe, it's certainly not going to..., you can't suck the explosives back into the mortar tube from Friday night. But, it's pretty important in future events to consider some of the things that I've mentioned in the letter, including when an event like this is going to be approved this close to a residential neighborhood, we're talking within 600 feet of our house and there were some houses on Parkside, in Parkside, that are even closer, ah, that would have also received the blast wave from it and been shaken equally heavily I would suspect. Maybe consulting with the community and making the community a little bit more aware of these types of events. Ah, people don't expect explosions at school events. When we bought property near the high school, we knew there was going to be noise. Actually, we welcome it. It's kind of neat. There's no problem with it at all. Explosions are not noise. I'm disappointed myself at District 271 that they allowed a pyrotechnic display, that is, a fireworks display or an explosives display on school property and that they weren't the applicant. That's...I...I have a problem with explosives, with fireworks, because I lost friends that I worked with that were trying to render safe explosives that were fireworks. And so I'm very sensitive to just how dangerous fireworks are. We tend to use the dismissive term fireworks. They are explosives. They will kill you faster. They will incinerate you faster that a lot of the commercial explosives that are probably covered by your blasting ordinance. Commercial explosives are extremely safe. Fireworks, you look at them crossways, and they may go up on you, especially illegally imported ones. So I'd like the City to very carefully consider these applications very closely as they come up. And that was really my purpose for wanting to be here tonight was to use this as an example. Short answer.

Councilmember Dixie Reid: Okay, thank you.

Mayor Bloem: Okay. Any other public comment?
After receiving additional public comment on other matters, the Councilmembers present (Councilmember Edinger was absent) voted unanimously to accept the Consent Calendar including item 4 as written on the agenda.

The next day, Wednesday, November 8, 2006, shortly after noon I received a telephone call from Mr. John Brumley, the Principal of Lake City High School. He asked if he and I could meet at a mutually convenient time and place to discuss my letter. I immediately drove to the school and met with him and Jim Winger in Mr. Brumley's office. Mr. Brumley said that School District 271 Superintendent Harry Amend had received my letter than morning and had then come to Mr. Brumley's office to discuss it.

After offering what I believe was a sincere and genuine apology for the disturbance we had experienced, Mr. Brumley explained that a "loyal school supporter" (whom he did not name) had attended a game in Meridian "last month". There, the game ball had been delivered to the center of the field by helicopter, and there had also been a fireworks display. The Lake City High School supporter offered to make all the arrangements and pay all the expenses associated with a similar event at the school's football game on November 3. The school accepted the supporter's offer.

Mr. Brumley, Mr. Winger, and I discussed my concerns involving the use of explosives at any school event, particularly an event near a residential setting. Mr. Brumley commented that the school's telephone system had recorded some complaints about the event. They reiterated numerous times that Lake City High School wanted to be a good neighbor to the surrounding community. The school had no desire to create the level of disturbance the fireworks display clearly caused. They also affirmed that the planning of future special unusual events would seriously consider the effects on the surrounding community.

I explained to Messrs. Brumley and Winger that the pyrotechnics contractor, Entertainment Fireworks, and the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department had primary responsibility to ensure that the pyrotechnics display was designed, sited, staffed, inspected, and presented not only safely but with minimal disruption to the surrounding residential neighborhood. I expressed my opinion that neither Entertainment Fireworks nor the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department had satisfactorily fulfilled their professional duties and responsibilities to either Lake City High School or the community. Our meeting was cordial, and again I note that within four or five hours of receiving my letter, School District 271 made a timely and sincere effort to resolve the situation amicably. In my view, it succeeded, and I sent a follow-up letter to Superintendent Amend (with a copy to Greenstone Homes) expressing my thanks for SD 271's prompt and sincere response.

On November 10, 2006, I received via US mail copies of the City of Coeur d'Alene's records regarding the permit for the fireworks display on November 3. The City's response was to send copies of the two documents (City Clerk and Coeur d'Alene Fire Prevention Bureau Office) hyperlinked earlier. Some additional information had been handwritten in the City's internal use boxes on both documents. That information confirms that the applicant paid $100 for the permit, there were no Fire Department inspections performed, and the actual permit for the November 3 display was the Council's ratification vote on November 7. Notably absent was any blasting permit and associated paperwork. With that the City implicitly acknowledged it had failed to enforce its blasting ordinance prior to the use of explosives in the City of Coeur d'Alene on November 3, 2006.

To give readers some idea of how inadequately the City performed its duties to oversee the safe and minimally disruptive use of explosives in the city, here are the questions I asked in my letter. Those questions and requests in red were unanswered by the City.

1. Who was the sponsor for the portion of the event involving explosives? What is the name and title of the person from School District 271 (SD 271) who authorized the necessary permit applications? Who from SD 271 applied for (signed) the necessary permit application. To whom were those applicatons submitted and when? I request a copy of all the applications and all associated documents submitted before November 3, 2006. (Note: The letter was composed and sent before my meeting with Messrs. Brumley and Winger from SD 271. Prior to that meeting, I assumed that SD 271 would have been the sponsor and the applicant. My assumption was incorrect. The sponsor and applicant was identified as Bill Reagan on city forms.)

2. Who was the event's pyrotechnic operator? I request a copy of the operator's or the company's license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. I request a copy of the operator's site plan. All the information in this file should already be on file with the City since it would have been impossible for the City to evaluate the permit applications without it.

3. I request a detailed description of the salutes. Identify the salute powder in each salute. What was the salute's outer container or mortar? How much salute powder was used in each salute? How many salutes were aerial shells and how many were ground display pieces? Of those that were ground display pieces, describe their placement and orientation. Were the salutes ignited manually or electrically. (Note: As explained in the hyperlinked glossary for terminology, a "salute" produces an explosive sound as its primary effect.)

4. Identify by name, title, and agency the City official(s) who reviewed the applications and approved the permits for the use of explosives in the pyrotechnic display. What is each official's training and experience that prepared him to technically evaluate the permit application and to assess the safety and suitability of the display site's placement with an unobstructed path to private residences in Coeur d'Alene Place and Parkside? I request a copy of the permits and all associated supporting documents prepared and issued prior to November 3, 2006.

5. Identify by name, title, and agency the City official(s) who conducted the range safety survey prior to the permit approval to determine the possible adverse effects of the explosions on the Coeur d'Alene Place and Parkside residences and their occupants. What is each official's traning and experience in conducting explosive range safety surveys? I request a copy of the written range safety survey with any supporting documents prepared before November 3, 2006.

6. Identify by name, title, and agency the City official(s) on site and with the operator's spotter at the display site during the display setup and presentation to ensure prescribed safety measures and practices were followed. What is each City official's specific trainng and experience with pyrotechnic displays and materials that qualified him/her to oversee safety on behalf of the City?

7. Identify by name, title, and agency the SD 271 and City official(s) responsible for contacting the surrounding neighborhood residents before the November 3 event to inform us that permits had been requested and to tell us what to expect during the pyrotechnic display. When and by what method did those contacts occur? What opportunity did SD 271 and the City provide for citizens in our residential neighborhood to comment on and ask questions about the proposed pyrotechnic display?

8. How many telephone calls did the local public safety answering point (PSAP) receive to report the explosions or complain about the pyrotechnic display? How many comments have SD 271 and the City received in addition to the ones received by the PSAP? (Note: The PSAP received at least one -- from me. This question was submitted to the Director of 911/Central Communications via email on Friday, November 17, 2006. Thus far no reply has been received.)

Finally, reread the earlier transcript of the comments and questions Councilmember Dixie Reid made in response to my unsuccessful request to have the Consent Calendar item number 4 withdrawn for consideration at a later time. Pay particular attention to the parts in which she explained that the request needed to be approved over the telephone by the Council members and ratified later in a Council meeting because it was in conjunction with a high school event and had come up at the last minute. No, it hadn't come up at the last minute. The permit application forms were dated 10/13/06, three weeks before the November 3, football game. The City Code section cited earlier requires that.

It appears that once again the Coeur d'Alene City Council may have violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law. It deliberated the permit application and took a telephone vote to authorize the pyrotechnic permit outside a scheduled public meeting. (If, as Councilmember Dixie Reid said, the Council did not take a telephone vote, how then could she state the majority of the Councilmdmbers said "yes" to the request.) I wonder: Who called the council members and when were those calls placed? If this process was consistent with the spirit and intent of the Idaho Open Meeting Law, then at what scheduled public meeting before November 3 was the permit application deliberated and voted on? Who offered and seconded a motion for approval? Where is the recorded vote of each council member? No, this permit application was improperly reviewed and approved by the Council. Attempting (successfully as it turns out) to legitimize an illegal deliberation and vote by "ratifying" it in the Consent Calendar four days after the event deprived the public of an opportunity to discuss and comment on the permit. Had the Council complied with the spirit and intent of the Idaho Open Meeting Law, perhaps our house would not have been jolted by a half-dozen or more explosions on November 3.

The City of Coeur d'Alene, which proudly displays the self-congratulatory "City of Excellence" motto on its fire apparatus, failed its citizens. It is bad enough that the City does not effectively enforce state and federal prohibitions on illegal fireworks and illegal explosives during the July 4 holiday period. It is completely unacceptable that residents in our own homes must also endure City-authorized house-shaking explosions from an entertainment event regardless of the event's perceived value to the community. So how will the City respond? My guess is that the City will try and amend its blasting ordinance so it does not apply to pyrotechnics. I hope I'm wrong, but that's how some officials think in the "City of Expedience."

Addendum, 11-25-2006: Idaho Code, Title 39-Health and Safety, Chapter 26-Fireworks, Section (1)(a) allows a jurisdiction to issue a permit for a public fireworks display, "After determining that the public display will be supervised by a qualified person and will not constitute an unreasonable hazard to persons or property." It goes on to say in Section (3) that, "The permit shall be nontransferable, shall list ... the types of fireworks and uses that will be allowed." There is no indication that the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department of City Council issued anything more than a verbal permit for the display. However, even if the Fire Department or Council relies on the information in the two pieces of paper comprising the application, the City failed to comply with the part of Section (3) requiring a specific listing of the "...types of fireworks and uses that will be allowed." Thus, the permit it "issued" violated state law by failing to meet the requirements of Section (3).

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Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

Do these people not know how to think? More and more it seems like our elected officials serve only themselves like members of a private club.

Community? What community.

Your post is excellent - and disturbing. But then I'm not surprised.

3:27 PM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger Kathleen A. Dahl said...

Yes, Bill, excellent post. Like so many things, it will take someone being maimed or killed to make the authorities take notice.

Your post made me better appreciate some of the time-consuming processes we're supposed to follow in my university, even when we're in a hurry and get frustrated by all the applications and signatures required. Granted, they don't have the same implications as handling potentially lethal explosives, but there are good reasons for following (well-designed) procedures and establishing the proper documentation for many things we have to do, especially in public institutions like schools.

Thanks for this post.

7:21 PM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger stebbijo said...

"It will take someone being maimed or killed to make the authorities take notice."

Kathleen - that is the ugly part. Nobody notices. This should have hit mainstream media and never did -- a huge concern.

Time to start wrapping my car with scotch tape and invisible thread?

8:37 PM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

dogwalkmusings, kathleen, and stebbijo: Thank you all for reading and commenting.

dwm: Yes, they know how to think, they just don't take time to think. I am completely ticked off at both the pyro company (Entertainment Fireworks) that produced the display and the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department. Both had absolute professional obligations to ensure the display was community-safe (not just safe on the school grounds) and lawful. Both were obligated to consider the potentially adverse effects on the community (including outside the school grounds) before agreeing to the display. Both failed to fulfill their professional obligations satisfactorily. I am also once again upset with the Coeur d'Alene City Council's disdain for the Idaho Open Meeting Law.

Kathleen: Someone has already been killed. Two men died at the Coeur d'Alene tribal casino grounds this past summer when a storage container of "fireworks" and propane tanks exploded. But that was in Worley, not Coeur d'Alene, so our local officials perhaps think it couldn't happen here. Regulatory procedures are inherently bureaucratic; they tend to slow things down. Slowing things down forces people to think of possible consequences. I wish I could say I was surprised when Dixie Reid implied the Council violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law and voted by telephone to approve the fireworks permit because (1) it was for a school event and (2) it came up at the last minute. Yes, by all means, let's circumvent reasonable, rationale thought and prescribed legal procedures to allow an event of questionable safety and unanticipated consequences to occur at a high school football game. I'm not just talking about the explosions here, either. I really wonder about the wisdom of landing a helicopter on the football field surrounded by spectators to deliver the game ball, particularly with the weather that night. Let's rush headlong into something stupid.

Stebbijo: There were no news media representatives at the media table at the Council Meeting on Tuesday, November 7. That's probably because (1) there was apparently nothing newsworthy on the agenda and (2) it was election night and they were no doubt deployed to more exciting venues. Of course, any news media at the football game on November 3 were there to cover the game, not raise embarrassing but relevant questions about the safety and potential adverse consequences of the helicopter landing and the use of explosives nearby.

7:22 AM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Word Tosser said...

To give a blanket "firework" ok, is scary at best... to not have the fireworks signed off by Fire Dept. and etc. is scary. Over the years people have gotten killed by fireworks even professional ones. I hope your letter was a learning experience for all those involved, but some how I don't think it will. Yet, they would be the first to scream, if the fireworks were to injure their child. To have no regard to the community surrounding the school, and say it is all for the good of education, sickens me. We all expect fireworks at 4th July, any other time is is jarring to say the least. Very good post, Bill, and I hope some where in all of those people ..especially the council wakes up and see what they are giving a blanket approval of, and to do it days later is disgusting and arrogant. I don't care if they did do a phone vote. Which has to be a matter of record and each council has to do a roll call vote.

9:40 AM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

Word Tosser,

Thank you. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

"The Open Meeting Law specifically authorizes the holding of a meeting by telephone conference call. In order to comply with Idaho Code section 67-2342(5), at least one member of the governing body or the director or chief administrative officer must be physically present at the meeting location designated in the meeting notice as required under Idaho Code section 67-2343. Additionally, the communications among the members of the governing body must be audible to all persons attending the meeting. Care should be taken to insure that votes are not made in such a way to permit an illegal secret ballot or vote."

There was no scheduled meeting. If there had been, the Coeur d'Alene City Clerk would have responded to my letter's question #7 with specific information. She didn't. There was no opportunity for the public to learn of the permit applications and raise objections before the event on November 3. Therefore, the only course of action was for me to object after the fact at the November 7 Council meeting when it would effectively do no good.

11:29 AM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Phil said...

I remember this night. After the first explosion, I spent about ten minutes walking around my house in the dark because I thought something had hit our house or fence. The second explosion sent me outside again looking for a car wreck in the neighborhood.

We're all the way over near Atlas and the sound was still incredibly loud. I never ever expected it to be coming from the high school. Especially not at 9:15 when I finally realized they were fireworks because of the long display at the end of the game.

What irks me the most is that my kids go to bed at 8pm, and they were asleep by the last round of explosions. I say they WERE asleep because they both woke up thinking the world was coming to an end!

6:37 PM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thank you for reading and commenting. I know exactly how you feel. What a lot of people don't realize is that a blast wave from an explosion behaves like most other waveforms: it can be reflected. There was a low cloud cover that night, and what may have happened is that the wave front hit the cloud cover and bounced back down in your area. It would have been slightly attenuated.

I attended the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (as it was known then) explosives handler course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. Our range limit, the maximum allowable explosive in any shot, was maybe two or three pounds, TNT equivalent. On cloudy days, the merchants in nearby Brunswick, GA, a few miles away, would call and complain because our relatively small shots were knocking dishes off shelves.

That's why I'm so upset with both the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department and the pyro company, Entertainment Fireworks. They were obligated to consider not only the incident blast waves that hit my house but the possibility of reflected blast waves. They also had an obligation to tell the school about possible consequences. Clearly, they didn't. I don't blame Lake City High School for anything more than misplacing their trust in the fire department and the pyro company to do their jobs.

I doubt that my complaining will do any good, and our county prosecuting attorney will certainly have no interest in pursuing the Council's apparently illegal vote. Cynical? Who...me? Nah. Well, maybe just a tad.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it.

7:20 PM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger stebbijo said...

So - is there a possibility of any structural damage?

Not sure - but if my house shook like ya all said it did in those parts of the city ...

I would not want to buy there any time soon.

8:36 PM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

Brilliant work, Bill.

9:13 PM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


If by structural damage you mean cracked concrete or house shifted on its foundation, no. Other more likely damage would include loss of seal around double pane windows so inert gas pressure is lost, etc. We won't know about that until winter hits full force.

7:11 AM, November 21, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thank you.

7:12 AM, November 21, 2006  
Anonymous BackwoodsBob said...

The real problem as I see it is that no matter the outcome of your investigation and posts, NOTHING will be done to remedy this in the future.
Unfortunately, our local government, like our federal government, is all to aware that even if the major media picks up the story, they can run it into the ground, and the "public's" response will either be brief, apathetic, hoplessness, but NEVER OUTRAGE!
Soon enough, the dust will settle, and "bussiness as ussual" will continue.
Ohhh... that doen't mean that you will never be compensated for any damage that may have occured, I believe that compensation/payoffs are part of the normal vocabulary (often discussed softly) in this, as well as, any other area. To quote a few folks with phrases that are often overheard, "As you can imagine, this is a very delicate situation." and, "Nothing personal, It's just business."
Ohhh... My favorite, I can't take your case... If I did, I would get bricks thrown through my windows." or my second favorite, "Sure, I'll take your case, Just give me ten thousand dollars, and be prepared to pay like sums in the near future."
Gawd Bill... I am soooo sorry, but I fear that getting any satisfactory action/change from our or any government agency/official is hopeless.
Thank you for your diligent and informational posts... Please keep up your hard work.

4:28 AM, November 22, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

Backwoods Bob,

Thank you, too, for reading my very lengthy post and for commenting. There were other people shaken as well, but for reasons of their own thought it best not to complain. But there are times when complaining is necessary to change an untenable situation. The City of Coeur d'Alene (the Fire Department, the City Clerk, and the City Council) failed to peform their oversight and regulatory duties lawfully and responsibly. They had an obligation to represent everyone in the community on an issue of safety, and they failed. They had a licensing and permitting procedure in place (the blasting ordinance), and they failed to apply it. From a government operations standpoint, they also failed the public, because the City Council deliberated and approved the defective permit with a telephone vote. Had the the public been given an opportunity to speak out at a public meeting before November 3, maybe we would not have suffered multiple explosions. That, of course, would have been inconvenient for the council, the sponsor, and the pyrotechnic company. Thus, the last line in my post referring to the City as "City of Expedience."

Thanks again.

7:14 AM, November 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i rather like the fireworks and will try to keep them going.

11:52 AM, November 18, 2010  

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