Sedate the pets and put the beer on ice — Independence Day is less than a week away and fireworks go on sale statewide Thursday.
Though the holiday falls smack-dab in the middle of the work week this year, it still means backyard barbecues, parades and fireworks for many of us.
Do your celebration plans involve fireworks — either setting them off yourself or watching a professional show? Here are some tips to keep in mind:
▪ When are fireworks available for purchase? Statewide, the sales period is from noon to 11 p.m. June 28, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 29 through July 4 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 5, according to Deputy State Fire Marshal Lysandra Davis.
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▪ When can you light fireworks? Whatcom County only allows consumer fireworks to be discharged from 6-11 p.m. July 3, 6 p.m. to midnight July 4 and 6-11 p.m. July 5, according to the Whatcom County Fire Marshal's Office. Some cities further limit times they can be set off (see below).
▪ Which fireworks are legal? Fireworks purchased at stands in unincorporated Whatcom County are inspected by the Fire Marshal's Office and are state licensed, according to the release. Fireworks purchased from a stand on an Indian reservation must remain on the reservation. The purchase of fireworks from unlicensed wholesalers or persons on the internet is illegal.
▪ Which fireworks are illegal to possess? Firecrackers, bottle rockets, missile-type rockets with fins, fireworks with sticks or fins and mortar shells larger than 1 3/4-inches in diameter are illegal to possess or use off a reservation. In addition, explosive devices such as M-80s, M-100s, tennis ball bombs and pipe bombs are illegal everywhere, and possession of them can result in criminal charges. Possessing any modified firework is considered an improvised explosive device and is a felony. Any fire started by fireworks or explosives is considered reckless burning and can result in civil and criminal penalties.
▪ Where can fireworks be lit? All consumer fireworks have been prohibited in Bellingham since the City Council adopted an ordinance in 2014 to ban them within city limits. Fines range between $250 and $1,000 for violating the ordinance, and your fireworks can be seized.
According to the Washington State Patrol, Blaine allows legal fireworks to be discharged between 10 a.m. and midnight on July 4. Everson allows them to be set off from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 3, 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 5. Legal fireworks can lit between 9 a.m. and midnight in Ferndale, while Lynden allows them to be discharged between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 1-3, 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 5. Nooksack and Sumas follow the state law, which allows them to be set off between noon and 11 p.m. July 28, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 29 through July 3, 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 5.
▪ Where are the public fireworks displays? There are two organized events July 4 in Whatcom County — the Port of Bellingham's celebration over Bellingham Bay, scheduled to start at 10:30 p.m., and Blaine's Old Fashion Fourth of July Celebration over Blaine Marine Park scheduled to start at 10:15 p.m. Birch Bay and the Sudden Valley marina usually have more informal shows by amateurs, but beware of the "Wild West" mentality.
Sumas has a fireworks display scheduled for dusk on Saturday as part of Community Days, while the Bellingham Bells will have a post-game show following their 6:35 p.m. game against Victoria on July 3 at Joe Martin Field.
There also will be a free, professional fireworks display in Birch Bay at 10 p.m. July 3 over the Birch Bay Bible Community Church on the corner of Bay Road and Blaine Road. A free, old-fashioned family carnival at the church will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The state patrol has a list of other fireworks shows around the state on its website.
▪ What should be done if vegetation catches fire? In 2017, there were 63 wildland and vegetation fires related to fireworks, resulting in $8,600 of loss and damages, according to the state Fire Marshal's office. When a fireworks device comes in contact with a vegetated area, use a hose or a bucket of water to heavily soak the area, ensuring there are no remaining hot spots. Anyone found responsible for starting a wildland fire may be forced to pay restitution for the fire suppression and damages caused by the fire.
According to the state Fire Marshal's Office, there were 345 reports of fireworks-related incidents by hospitals, clinics and fire agencies in 2017 — 262 injuries and 83 fires, and most of them occurred around the Fourth of July. The 262 injuries was 11 percent higher than the 10-year average, and the 83 fires resulted in loss of $59,200.
National Council on Fireworks Safety tips
▪ Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
▪ Know your fireworks. Read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
▪ A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
▪ Save alcohol for after you're done lighting fireworks.
▪ Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
▪ Light one firework at a time and quickly move away.
▪ Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from building and vehicles.
▪ Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minute and then soak it in a bucket of water.
▪ Always have a bucket of water or charged water hose nearby.
▪ Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
▪ Do not use homemade fireworks.
▪ Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them and placing them in a metal trash can away from any combustible materials.
▪ Report illegal explosives to local fire or police departments.
National Council on Fireworks Safety tips for pets
▪ Don't bring pets to a fireworks display.
▪ If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound.
▪ Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
▪ Never shot fireworks of any kind near pets.