Fireworks ban appears to have reduced related incidents, injuries in Bellingham

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 10, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - As police noted a quieter but still busy Independence Day in Bellingham - where residential fireworks were banned for the first time - firefighters and medical personnel saw fewer incidents and injuries related to pyrotechnics this year.

Even though it's still too early for official 2014 statistics collected by state and federal agencies, local officials said the fireworks ban reduced incidents in Bellingham and remained about the same countywide - including at least one serious fire and one serious injury related to fireworks.

Nationally, eight deaths and 11,400 injuries were linked to fireworks in 2013.

In previous years, Whatcom County police and fire dispatch frequencies would blaze with activity as darkness neared on July Fourth, but Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Newbold said that wasn't the case this year. He reported no significant events directly related to fireworks.

"In general terms, from what I've heard from our battalion chiefs is that it was a relatively quiet night," Newbold said. "Call activity seemed to be down. The overriding feeling was that this was a little calmer."

Emergency Department personnel at St. Joseph hospital also noted fewer injuries from fireworks. The hospital doesn't track patient visits by injury and can't discuss specifics because of federal privacy laws.

"Anecdotally, the staff in the ED think that there was a slight decrease in fireworks-related injuries that came through the ED as compared to past years," said Margie Campbell, nurse manager in the Emergency Department.

Fireworks-related incidents in the smaller cities and rural areas of Whatcom County remained about the same, said Will Anderson, an investigator with the county fire marshal's office.

"We had a huge increase in fireworks stands in the county," Anderson said. "We had some grass fires, but I'd say it was about the same (as last year)."

He said the most serious incident was a July 1 fire that damaged a barn near Sumas. It was sparked by teens playing with fireworks.

A mortar detonated in the county caused the partial amputation of a victim's thumb. Details on that incident were not available.

Anderson said that his office usually investigates one or two serious medical calls every year - mostly for hand injuries, burst eardrums or minor cuts.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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