June 24, 2013
Misty Volaski, email@example.com
A freshly married bride — and thousands of area residents — got an unexpected surprise Saturday night when a series of fireworks lit up the sky over the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
While the more than 5-minute show presumably delighted the bride, the response from community members was mixed. Social media lit up with queries, theories and complaints, as did the phone lines at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and the Inn. Many said the display was great, but the overriding objection seemed to be a lack of notice prior to the event.
“It was a beautiful show … (But) given what occurred, we certainly could have done a better job, definitely in telling our neighbors about it,” acknowledged Ojai Valley Inn marketing director Chris Kandziora. “We didn’t know the full depth and volume of the show.”
Kandziora added that the Inn has changed its policies and will no longer be conducting fireworks shows on its property.
Although the Inn went through the proper channels to legally light the fireworks — including getting permits from both the city of Ojai and the Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) — they were not required to notify locals of their intentions. The local sheriff’s department was, however, notified; dispatchers explained the situation to several worried callers, but did not send an officer to the scene.
The temporary fireworks permit was approved by Ojai’s Community Development Director Rob Mullane June 11. Like Kandziora, Mullane said the city underestimated how loud the fireworks would be. “I’ve heard that the booms were heard throughout the entire city and beyond,” Mullane said. “I don’t think we anticipated that much of a noise impact.”
He added that the temporary use permit did not require the public be notified, but that “I can tell you, based on this experience, that if someone wanted to do this again … we would probably require them to pay for the notice we would put in the newspaper and we’d also provide advance notice on the city’s website. We have some flexibility on the conditions (we can apply).” Mullane said that he and city staff will look at similar permit requests with more scrutiny in the future. “Based on the feedback, we may not issue (such a permit) in the future,” he added. “We also could elevate this to a Planning Commission decision.”
VCFD public information officer Mike Lindbery confirmed that after the applicant got the go-ahead from the city of Ojai, the fire department also granted a permit, with conditions. The Inn was required to have a VCFD fire prevention officer, as well as several fire extinguishers, on scene. But because the display was conducted on the Inn’s golf course, which is often watered, the VCFD determined that it would not require the Inn to have a fire engine on scene (as it does with the Independence Day fireworks show, due to its proximity to Besant Meadows and residences).
“Our part is to make sure first of all that it is safe, and that all fire code standards regarding fireworks are being followed,” said Lindbery. The fire prevention officer “makes sure the fallout area is safe, unobstructed by combustible materials.”
He added that the cost for a permit from VCFD runs at a base cost of $410, but there are additional costs. In this case, the Inn also paid for the fire prevention officer for six hours, at a cost of $70 per hour.
VCFD did receive phone calls and complaints, as did 911, the city of Ojai, the Ojai Valley Inn and the Ojai Valley News.
Many of those complaints centered around concerns for anxious animals. Employees at the Humane Society of Ventura County’s Ojai shelter found a note attached to the door Monday, saying a resident had found a lost dog Saturday; however, they discovered that the dog was quickly returned to its owner. No kennel animals were adversely affected, according to the caregiver on site Saturday.
“We want to be respectful members of our community,” Kandziora said, “For every one person that didn’t appreciate it, there were 10 that did … we’d like to extend our apologies to the community for the few who didn’t appreciate them.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated June 25 at 3:36 p.m. to include quotes from city officials.