Tumwater out of step on fireworks

July 2, 2013 

In just two days, South Sound residents will celebrate our nation’s birthday. There will be backyard barbecues, family reunions and patriotic celebrations. Some residents will also set off fireworks, annoying neighbors and frightening family pets.

Olympia residents proved just how unpopular fireworks have become by overwhelmingly – 58 percent – approving a 2011 ballot proposition to ban the sale and discharge of personal fireworks within city limits. That ban goes into effect this year, 12 months after the City Council passed an ordinance based on the public vote.

The city’s ordinance was appropriately modeled on a similar law passed by the city of Lacey in 2007. That made provisions and penalties consistent between the two jurisdictions.

That leaves the city of Tumwater glaringly out of step on this issue. The Tumwater City Council did amend its fireworks ordinance in 2012 to limit fireworks discharge to July 3 and 4, and between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. But that doesn’t go far enough, and creates confusion for residents and law enforcement where city boundaries split neighborhoods.

We encourage the city of Tumwater to begin the process to ban the sale and discharge of personal fireworks within city limits by passing a city ordinance this year that would, as prescribed by state law, take effect in 2015.

It is difficult to justify the continued use of legal fireworks — let alone illegal ones — in urban areas such as Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater. The Department of Ecology is warning people that breathing the fine particles in fireworks smoke can create or add to health problems.

Air quality monitoring in Lacey around previous July Fourths have recorded three to four times the concentration of harmful particles above the level that sparks a burn ban.

Thurston County could jump on the bandwagon, too, and tighten up the time period for sales and discharge of legal fireworks. There’s no need to allow the personal use of fireworks before 3 p.m. on July 3 and 4.

South Sound residents have several opportunities to enjoy commercial fireworks displays in all three local municipalities during July. There’s no need to tempt personal injury by setting off your own legal or illegal fireworks.

The Fourth of July should be a time of great pride in America. Our nation’s founders would want us to have a safe and sane birthday party.

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