One year after North Myrtle Beach crackdown, Horry County considers firework-free zones

North Myrtle Beach-Horry County donut holes complicate fireworks-free zones
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 11:21 PM EDT
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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - North Myrtle Beach police have stopped holding back when it comes to fireworks violations.

That approach seems to be working. Since cranking up the punishment, the city has seen a steep decline in fireworks-related calls.

On the dunes of the beach, the tips of the reeds are scorched after a firework landed on the dune and lit it up last week.

Incidents like this have been few and far between this year as police have really started cracking down.

“I looked over, and I thought, what happened over there? I didn’t even think of fireworks, to be honest,” said Karen Hawkins. “I thought it was a cigarette.”

Hawkins has been vacationing in North Myrtle Beach for a week every year for about the last two decades.

The view outside her rental condo was a little singed on this particular visit after North Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue had to put out a dune fire caused by a firework.

Seeing the damage so close to her condo has Hawkins conflicted about how she feels about the colorful explosions.

“It’s a little scary that it’s that close,” Hawkins said. “But I’m kind of like this - I love watching them, but I don’t want people to get in trouble and endanger the building.”

North Myrtle Beach banned fireworks in 1984 and has not wavered on the stance since then.

This means police have become accustomed to calls about illegal activity.

“We’ve had roughly, on average, around 300 or so per year. We had a slight uptick in 2020, a little over a thousand calls for service.”

That “uptick” led the city council to make the policy even stricter last April.

No more warnings. The first offense will land you a $300 ticket, and the second offense could be a custodial arrest.

“Not only is it for the betterment of our community, but it’s also to keep property safe.”

The calls dropped below 700 in 2021, and police have only had about 40 calls so far in 2022.

Those calls could drop even lower if Horry County enacts its own version of a firework law.

Areas just outside North Myrtle Beach city limits have routinely been problem spots for police, but their hands are tied.

“If it’s not inside city limits, we can’t regulate what they do. If they’re right along the city line but in the county, they’re allowed at this point. Unless the county does something.”

The Horry County Council is considering firework-free zones where complaints are high.

The North Myrtle Beach city manager has already requested Ocean Creek Drive be added because police get a ton of calls but can’t do anything since it’s just outside the city.

If those firework-free zones come to pass, Hawkins may see even less lighting up the night sky on her next vacation.

“If you live here, I guess it would be more up to them,” said Hawkins. “But just visiting, I’m like, ‘What’s the big deal?’ I might want to go out and buy some fireworks.”

The Horry County Public Safety Committee is expected to meet and discuss the firework-free zones in May.

In the meantime, North Myrtle Beach will continue to work on messaging so people are aware fireworks are illegal everywhere within city limits.

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