Extra patrols will enforce Bellingham fireworks ban

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 24, 2014 

0624 Fireworks PAD

Carlos Castaneda Jr., 12, helps stock the fireworks stand owned by his family Monday, June 23, 2014, on Haxton Way on the Lummi Reservation.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - Over the next two weeks, police and fire personnel will post signs and conduct extra patrols to remind residents about the city's ban on personal fireworks.

The city voted to ban the sale, possession and use of personal fireworks within city limits last year. The ban took effect June 18.

No booths will be allowed to sell fireworks within city limits. The Whatcom County Fire Marshal's Office will distribute information to booths around the county reminding purchasers of the ban.

"It will be up to those stand owners whether or not they pass those fliers out," Bellingham Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Hewett told the City Council Public Works and Public Safety Committee on Monday, June 23.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal granted 29 stand licenses for Whatcom County this year, though there may be fewer stands if someone chooses not to use their license. That number is in line with the past four years, when the number of licenses granted in the county varied from 25 to 29.

The ban covers all fireworks except for novelty items, like confetti-filled party poppers, that may be purchased in stores year-round, Hewett said in a phone interview.

"Anything that takes a match or lighter to ignite will pretty much end up in that ban," he said.

Two-person patrols, made up of one Bellingham Police officer and one Bellingham fire inspector, will respond to fireworks complaints in the city from June 28 through July 5, the time period when fireworks are allowed to be sold and used elsewhere in the county and in the state.

The extra patrols were not expected to target any specific areas and will be complaint-driven. However, officers may respond to any use of fireworks they see or hear.

Those who are caught violating the ban can be fined a minimum of $250 and up to $1,000. Any illegal fireworks also may be seized immediately.

Residents can voluntarily turn in fireworks to the police department at 505 Grand Ave.

During Monday's public safety committee meeting, councilmember Michael Lilliquist asked whether it would be legal to purchase fireworks somewhere outside the city and merely store them at a home in Bellingham. Under the ordinance, even possessing fireworks is illegal, so that scenario would not be legal, said Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht.

The departments also will place two electronic reader boards in the city to display the rules and other fireworks-related information. They will be set up at the What-Comm 9-1-1 Center at Alabama and Iron Streets and at Fire Station Number 5 at 3314 Northwest Avenue.

The city also will post metal signs along several main roads that enter the city.

"We just want people to understand the law is there," Hewett said. "Nobody here is looking to take away people's fun with the holiday."

Instead of lighting off personal fireworks, residents are encouraged to enjoy one of the local permitted fireworks shows, Hewett said.

The Haggen Family 4th of July celebration, which will include live music, food and other events, will start at 11 a.m. at Zuanich Point Park and Squalicum Boathouse. The Port of Bellingham also will open up the G-P mill site pier for the fireworks show. Starting around 9:30 p.m., up to 1,000 people will be able to walk along a route from the Granary building on Roeder Avenue and find a place to watch the show, which is scheduled to start around 10:30 p.m.

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-715-2274 or Samantha.Wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com.

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