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Time to Start Thinking About Fireworks . . . for 2018


May 2, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Licensing and Regulation

Time to Start Thinking About Fireworks . . . for 2018

Snow showers are over and the heavy rainstorms are hopefully now behind us. Isn’t it time to start thinking about May flowers and Mothers’ Day (May 14)? Sure it is, but it is also time to start thinking about the 2018 fireworks season. If your community wants to ban the sale or use of fireworks, now is the time for its legislative body to start considering it. It’s too late now for the 2017 season, but if a ban is to be adopted for 2018, it must be adopted by June 28, 2017.

Why June 28, 2017?

By state law, fireworks may only be sold and used between June 28 and July 5; they also may be sold between December 27 and December 31. RCW 70.77.395. Additionally, fireworks may be used on January 1. However, a local jurisdiction may adopt legislation more restrictive than state law, such as a ban, if the legislation has an effective date one year after its adoption. RCW 70.77.250(4). Thus, if a city or county wishes to halt the sale or use of fireworks in 2018, it must take legislative action by no later than June 28, 2017.

Why Ban Fireworks?

Clearly one major concern is the potential for fire. When temperatures are hot and vegetation is dry, the improper use of fireworks can pose a threat to surrounding property. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the United States in 2013, resulting in an estimated 30 civilian injuries and $21 million in direct property damage. Personal safety is another concern. The 2014 Fireworks Annual Report, prepared by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, estimated that there were 10,500 injuries treated in hospitals and at least 22 deaths attributable to fireworks. There are other concerns as well, such as litter, smoke, anxiety caused to pets and other animals, the cost of enforcement, and air, water, and ground pollution.

But there are also reasons people oppose bans. Fireworks are celebratory and traditional and help bring families and communities together. The sale of fireworks can be a significant source of revenue for many nonprofit organizations, a source that cannot be easily replaced. Bans in a community are not always effective, since fireworks often can be purchased at locations not covered by a ban and then used elsewhere where they are prohibited. Enforcement may be difficult since the actual use of fireworks may occur outside the immediate view of enforcement officers. With instruction and supervision, fireworks can be safe. With proper preparation, the negative effects on pets can be reduced. And, of course, enforcement of firework bans or regulations may lessen the ability of police and fire officials to enforce other, higher priority laws. Choosing to ban or not is not easy.

What Does the Public Think?

Given the various pro and con arguments, does the public support fireworks bans? Communities across the state have sought advice from their voters to make that determination. The answer is mixed. Voters in Sequim supported a ban on the use of fireworks, but voted to allow their sale. Tumwater voters supported a ban on the sale and use of fireworks except for public displays and small trick and novelty devices, such as bang snaps, snakes, and smoke-generating items. Voters in Bothell, Duvall, and Snohomish opposed fireworks bans. Voters from the cities of Brier, Kent, Maple Valley, Marysville, and Olympia, as well as Clark County, voted in favor of bans.

If a decision is made to ban or otherwise regulate the sale or use of fireworks, here are a few sample regulations that could be considered:

  • Kirkland Municipal Code Ch. 11.60 prohibits the sale or use of fireworks in the city, but provides regulations for public displays.
  • Franklin County Code Ch. 8.04 prohibits the manufacture, sale, transportation, discharge, storage or use of fireworks, with a few minor exceptions, establishes permits for public displays and other activities, and provides for the seizure of fireworks offered or exposed for sale, stored or used in violation of the chapter.
  • Puyallup Municipal Code Sec. 16.20.110 which limits the time of fireworks use to between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July.
  • Tumwater Ordinance No. 02012-010 limits the sale of fireworks from July 1 to July 4 and their use to between 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on July 3 and July 4. 
  • Vancouver Municipal Code Ch. 16.30 limits the sale of consumer fireworks to between July 2 and July 4 and their use to between 9:00 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on July 4.

If you have any questions regarding the current state fireworks laws or how local jurisdictions can alter them, contact MRSC. We’re here to help.

Have a question or comment about this information? Have another topic you’d like to see a blog post discuss? Let me know below or contact me directly at psullivan@mrsc.org.

About Paul Sullivan

Paul has worked with local governments since 1974 and has authored MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations. He also provides training on the Open Public Meetings Act.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Paul Sullivan

Comments

"Thanks for your comment C.F. You should contact your county councilmember or the county council itself. The county council would be the body that would make the decision to ban fireworks (or not). The other annoyances you reference are another thing. Firing guns or setting off dynamite is likely illegal. For those, contact the sheriff or city police, depending where the activity is taking place. Such offenses are difficult to enforce because once a bell is rung or a gunshot made, there is no evidence. Someone must be able to say that "X did ___" and that is not easy to do."

Paul Sullivan on May 3, 2017 9:40 AM

"Who do I contact in unincorporated Pierce county to get help with the constant barage of large, illegal fireworks, shot gun and dynamite ? This is a ongoing and constant throught the Seahawks season (every time they score a touchdown!!!) as well as randomly throughtout the year. I live in a war zone starting in June and not ending til mid August! Then football season starts. I have to leave my home it is so bad. It is impossible to pinpoint who is doing this as there are so many participants. I have to drug my little dog for 2-3 months/year and she lives in a closet during this time. It has so negatively impacted qaulity of life here. I call 911 but cannot report to them exactly who is firing off shots, or fireworks. We need relief in Unincorporated Pierce County to BAN all fireworks."

C F on May 3, 2017 7:51 AM

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