Thunder Bay

Petition for "silent fireworks" display in Thunder Bay gaining momentum

A woman from Thunder Bay launched a petition to have the city change over to silent fireworks as a way to protect pets, wildlife, and natural environment.

Silent fireworks would mean animals and pets are not disturbed by the loud bangs

Erin Ferriolo of Thunder Bay wants the city to adopt 'silent' fireworks for the sake of animals that can be affected by the noise and intensity of traditional ones. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

A Thunder Bay woman would like to see the 'bang and boom' of traditional fireworks a thing of the past.

Erin Ferriolo wants the city to eliminate loud fireworks and replace them with "silent fireworks" to ensure that pets and animals around Thunder Bay are not disturbed.

The certified crossfit coach and group fitness trainer started a petition after she realized how many people were worried about their animals as summer dates for fireworks approached.

"[I was] just thinking of how my dog was over the Canada day weekend," said Ferriolo. "I also belong to a couple of local facebook groups … and so many people were just posting about how scared their dogs were and where could they get thunder shirts and that sort of thing."

Erin Ferriolo started the petition for silent fireworks after she realized how many people were asking about solutions for their pets before the fireworks arrived. (Erin Ferriolo)

Ferriolo said she was inspired to start the petition after she saw a similar initiative started in Italy.

"A friend of mine on Facebook...shared this link about silent fireworks in Italy," recalled Ferriolo. "So I thought 'oh, why doesn't Thunder Bay have anything like this?'"

When she shared the link in her Thunder Bay dog walking group, someone suggested she start a petition to promote the idea locally. Ferriolo started the petition with the intention of getting 200 signatures by the end of August. But she reached her goal in about 24 hours and has received more signatures than she anticipated.

As she did more research, she realized the notion for quiet fireworks wouldn't just be for animals, but also for the environment and for people who suffer from PTSD and autism, who can sometimes struggle with loud noises. 

Quiet Fireworks not new in Canada

Silent fireworks can still make some noise, but do not create nearly as much noise as a traditional fireworks show. The silent or 'quiet' fireworks are more of a 'sizzle' and 'pop' as opposed to a large 'boom' or 'bang' sound. 

Over the Canada Day long weekend, Banff, Alta. implemented quiet fireworks after a group of naturalists brought the idea to their town council. It was considered a way to ensure the wildlife and natural environment around Banff would be better protected.

"Town Council decided to change the event displays at special celebrations from traditional fireworks shows to pyrotechnics displays that people often see in large-scale rock concerts," according to a written statement from Deputy Mayor Ted Christensen. "They wanted to minimize the impact on wildlife in the town site and the surrounding national park, because loud fireworks can be very stressful to them."

Christensen says the contractors for their pyrotechnic display, Fireworks Spectaculars, used pyrotechnics with a chemical composition that focuses on colours and uses less explosive material and tight packaging, which causes the 'boom'.

"There is still some sound as shells are launched but it is quite quiet because there is not a deliberate explosive effect, which Fireworks manufacturers have to add," he says.

I'm not a scientist, I'm just an individual who cares and is an animal lover.- Erin Ferriolo 

Ferriolo says Northwestern Ontario is also home to a lot of wildlife and using quiet fireworks might be a way to help protect the natural environment and potentially reduce wildfires caused by fireworks.

"Now it's not just about the dogs as I'm starting to get some more information," said Ferriolo. "We're in Northwestern Ontario, we have nothing but nature around us. We have fire bans here all the time...if we can do something to minimize that, why not try."    

"I'm not a scientist, I'm just an individual who cares and is an animal lover."

The bang, crackle or whistles, comes down to the chemical mix 

Traditional fireworks are made with gun powder, which is made from carbon, sulphur and a nitrate which provides oxygen, according to Professor Robert Morris at the University of Toronto's chemistry department. The more gun powder there is, the louder the boom.

The way the chemicals react in the firework package allows carbon dioxide to form quickly and blow up the tube, causing an explosion. This is what causes the bang of the firework. 

"Usually you want a loud bang," said Morris. But he said to purposely make fireworks quieter is possible.  The sound, whether it be the bang, crackle or whistles, is determined by the mix of different chemicals.

Professor Robert Morris from the University of Toronto's chemistry department says making quiet fireworks is entirely possible by omitting certain ingredients. (CBC News)

"There is some sound, but its not these loud bangs that sort of thunder...it's mainly the colours that are generated."  

He says to make a quieter firework, some of the ingredients can be omitted.

"To get the loud bang, they normally use pieces of metal like aluminum. That's the so called fuel. Then they put in chlorate or nitrate and that's the source of oxygen to burn the metal. When you do that, it's really hot and that causes an explosion with other things they mix in. So that gives you the loud bang and a huge flash as well," said Morris. 

He said over time, the bang in fireworks became man made, as people wanted the fireworks to get louder and louder. But he said that once fireworks are in the air, the metals are so hot that they burn off quickly, leading only ash to fall to the ground.

"The well made [fireworks] are designed to burn rapidly," said Morris, noting that a risk of a fire from fireworks are slim.

Petition garnering mixed reviews

Ferriolo has received positive and negative feedback on the idea, with some commending her for starting the petition and citing the need for such a change. 

Others are opposed because they like the 'boom' and 'awe' of traditional fireworks, and  have said not all animals are affected by fireworks.

"A guy who had posted in one of the groups said he wouldn't support it because he has a dog and his dog was at Boulevard Lake when there were fireworks going off over the weekend and his dog didn't flinch," said Ferriolo.

Ferriolo admits she can't respond to all the arguments or answer everyone's questions on the idea, but says she is continuing her research to learn more. She says she understands the perspective of those who disagree with her and has tried to maintain a healthy debate.

Erin Ferriolo started the petition with the intention of getting 200 signatures by the end of August. She reached her goal in nearly 24 hours. (Change.org)

"People are presenting me with [ideas] that even I didn't think of ... so I'm just taking everything in."  

But for those questioning the difference between fireworks and thunderstorms, she says it comes down to the expectancy.

"Fireworks are more unpredictable, right? We know as humans, okay city council says there's going to be a firework show. Animals don't know that. They can sense with thunderstorms change in barometric pressure, they can sense change in the rain and the humidity. They can sense that. They can't sense the fireworks."

Ferriolo says she hopes to work with her city councillor to get the petition before council.

About the Author

Kirthana Sasitharan is a Journalist with CBC News. Reach her on twitter @KirthanaSasitha.

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