Planning to start the new year with a bang in Surrey? You might want to think twice.
Heavily censored incident reports and photographs, obtained under the freedom of information law, include details of coordinated fireworks seizures by civic bylaw enforcement officers and RCMP constables from underground retailers and buyers without permits.
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke boasted last month that staff and cops seized $345,000 worth of fireworks from four locations during the Halloween and Diwali period in late October and early November. They also attended 269 discharge locations and issued 23 fines.
The sale and discharge of fireworks, without a fire department permit and federal fireworks operator certificate, is punishable in Surrey with fines up to $5,000. Incident reports state Surrey did not issue any permit in 2023.
In one Oct. 31 case, bylaw officer Tyler Lunn “observed that a propane torch, connected via a hose, to a 100-lb tank was being used to light the fireworks. The propane tank was located just inside the garage of the building on the property.”
A Nov. 1 file said bylaw officer Kevin Yip “observed a large display of fireworks being discharged from a wheelbarrow and from an area beside a wheelbarrow” into the air and into traffic.
Yip “could hear laughter as they were being shot onto the street area” and witnessed people return to twice to relight fireworks in the wheelbarrow.
“The officer remained on scene for approximately 10 minutes and had his amber lights flashing while gathering evidence. The group on the property continued to discharge fireworks into the air and towards the officer’s vehicle as well as traffic,” said the incident report.
Officers seized $80,000 of fireworks from a clandestine store set up in an abandoned house during a Nov. 3 inspection.
Bylaw officer Jaspreet Kandola found a Google ad for fireworks for sale and posed as a customer in order to receive the address by text message from the proprietor.
The seller arrived at the location late, driving a grey Tesla with B.C. licence plates, with multiple fireworks boxes in the back seat. The interior of the house “was down to the studs,” but a room was filled with packed shelves of fireworks, and a cash register on a table. A photograph also shows a PIN pad for credit and debit transactions.
Prices varied, from $70 to $90 per package for the family pack. The officer said she would buy six packages and then advised the seller she was with Surrey bylaw enforcement.
“RCMP went into the property and confirmed the house was full of firework packages
and the property was unoccupied,” said the incident report. “RCMP seized all of the fireworks from the house.” Constables and bylaw officers delivered the fireworks to the RCMP main detachment bay garage for destruction.
Another officer similarly obtained the address for another store via text message. Two officers, Taranjit Bains and another only identified as Maghera, and two constables, identified only as Carozza and Gibson, entered the store on Oct. 27 during a bust of fireworks valued at $100,000.
“Const. Gibson asked the employees if they were the owners and they said no. Employees said they will call the business owner to attend. Meanwhile, Const. Gibson asked the employees to stand outside while all the fireworks are being seized,” said the incident report.
An additional pair of constables arrived and Maghera asked for more bylaw officers to join in the removal of the fireworks for delivery to the main RCMP detachment for destruction.
The apparent business owner arrived and said “they do not sell directly from the store but store the items so when costumers buy online, it is easier for shipping.”
The owner and two employees were given fine notices.
Photographs shot at the scene show a hand printed sign offering free sparklers to customers who post reviews to Google Maps. Price tags on shelves contained the logo for the Pyro Bob’s chain and products included names like Wake the Neighbours, The Two-Four and Kerfuffle.
Among the seized boxes were several labelled as explosives and marked with the name of Abbotsford distributor Mystical Fireworks, which sources fireworks from China and Cambodia.
In an additional Nov. 4 report, Bains and Kandola attended the subject address. Bains knocked on the front and rear doors, but nobody answered. They walked back to their work vehicle and observed movement in a black Kia SUV.
Bains approached the vehicle to find a person in the front seat, which was pushed all the way down. Bains requested identification and re-served the municipal violation tickets. The Oct. 27 originals were cancelled due to an error in the address.
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