Posted on 07/07/2017 at 12:00 AM by Troy Cummings
Everyone celebrates the 4th of July in a variety of ways across the United States, but there is one thing they all have in common; fireworks.
On June 1, 2017 laws concerning fireworks were relaxed in Iowa. For the first time in 79 years, fireworks were allowed to be sold and privately used in Iowa. Different states have different laws regarding fireworks and enact these laws for various reasons. Iowa has an interesting story as to why fireworks were banned for so long.
Iowa was experiencing a severe drought in the summer of 1931. This was just the beginning of an extended drought that would eventually affect the Great Plains for years to come. 1931 was also a difficult time for many due to the Great Depression, which was especially bad in farming areas.
In the northwestern Iowa town of Spencer, about 100 people had already died that summer because of extreme heat. Things were bad in the community of about 5,000, but the residents were looking forward to the upcoming 4th of July celebrations as the bright spot of their summer.
On a scorching afternoon in late June, a group of children had gathered at the corner drugstore to admire an impressive fireworks display laid out on a 40-foot long table. One of the young children was playing with a lit sparkler in the store when the unthinkable happened – the boy dropped his sparkler into the fireworks display.
The display exploded and fire began to quickly spread out of control because of dry, windy conditions. The local fire department diligently fought the flames but were losing the battle. Eventually, the town’s calls for help were answered. Surrounding communities sent in additional firefighters and a fire chief from Des Moines flew to Spencer to offer assistance. With no more water pressure and the city center still ablaze, the only alternative was to create a firebreak by dynamiting buildings.
Late that evening the fire was finally under control. Amazingly no lives had been lost, but 2½ city blocks had been destroyed and almost 500 people were out of work. Over the next few years, the city worked to rebuild their downtown. During that time, they continued to lobby the state government until the sale and private use of fireworks was banned in 1938.
Photos by Ricky Daveluy, National Driver Content by Troy Cummings, Marketing Project Coordinator