BELLINGHAM - With 2013 being the final year to sell fireworks inside the city limits, stand operators who send the proceeds to charity are pondering what to do next year for fundraisers.
Seven firework stands began opening up throughout Bellingham on Friday, June 28. More than half of them focus on raising money for charities, including Bellingham Food Bank and projects that benefit children.
Earlier this month, the City Council voted to ban personal fireworks in the city. The ban takes effect June 2014, with violators facing a minimum fine of $250.
Life Church Bayside operates three stands in Bellingham that, together, raise about $6,000 a year. The church uses the money to send needy children to summer camps, help areas hit by a natural disaster and support women's shelters, said Larry Newland, a church organizer who works with TNT Fireworks. About 50 church volunteers are involved in the effort, which runs through Thursday, July 4.
"We try to use the funds to help people that aren't getting it from anywhere else," Newland said.
He said the church hasn't decided what to do next year. They might set up a fireworks stand outside the city, but competition with existing stands is a concern.
The Bellingham Fraternal Order of Eagles has had a booth in the Meridian Haggen parking lot for more than 30 years, said Moe Morris, who organizes the fundraiser that makes about $5,000 a year.
They are thinking about setting up a stand on Guide Meridian next year. That would be a big change, because many current customers are parents and children in the neighborhood who go to the stand before or after a trip to the grocery store.
"I've enjoyed getting to know people and the camaraderie that comes with having a stand here each year," Morris said.
Operators aren't sure what the demand will be for fireworks this year. It was quiet the first afternoon at several stands, but the busiest days are typically July 3 and July 4, Morris said.
Residents might buy more fireworks to celebrate one last time in Bellingham, or might buy less as they begin to adjust to no more personal fireworks.
Buyers have less variety at Bellingham stands this year because multi-aerial fireworks are banned, along with stand-alone mortar devices. Legal fireworks in Bellingham include smoke items, sparklers and spinners, helicopters, cones, fountains and wheels.
Setting off fireworks in Bellingham is legal only between 9 a.m. and midnight July 4.
The Bellingham police and fire departments plan to have additional patrol teams through Friday, July 5. In a Thursday, June 27, guest column in The Bellingham Herald, Fire Chief Roger Christensen and Police Chief Cliff Cook said teams of fire inspectors and police officers will be in neighborhoods, respond to 911 calls, provide education about Bellingham's fireworks code, and deal with violators.