Whatcom County to consider limits to fireworks

A fireworks stand on Haxton Way on the Lummi Reservation June 23, 2014 .
A fireworks stand on Haxton Way on the Lummi Reservation June 23, 2014 . The Bellingham Herald

The use of fireworks in unincorporated Whatcom County may be restricted to three days around the July 4 holiday after a public hearing Tuesday, June 23, on the proposed rule change.

County Council member Barbara Brenner introduced a revision to the county code that would limit the discharge of fireworks to evenings on July 3, 4 and 5, in addition to New Year’s Eve.

If approved, the new rules wouldn’t go into effect until 2016.

Currently, the county follows state law on fireworks restrictions. Fireworks are allowed June 28 to July 5, and New Year’s Eve. Cities and counties may set their own fireworks rules, as long as they are stricter than state law.

The public hearing will begin shortly after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, at council chambers in the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham.

“I’ve had a lot of complaints and concerns raised,” Brenner said Wednesday, June 17, in an interview. “I’ve heard from veterans. I’ve heard from people who have pets. I’ve heard from people who can’t sleep at night, and they have to work.”

“This respects the holiday for what it is and allows fireworks for a reasonable amount of time, instead of a whole week and more,” she said.

Sheriff Bill Elfo said he supported the proposal. Like Brenner, he said he has heard from veterans who say their post-traumatic stress disorder is aggravated by the sound of exploding fireworks.

“In the days leading up to Independence Day and New Year’s, we receive a high volume of calls regarding safety, and the peace and quiet of our citizens,” Elfo said Thursday, June 18, in an email to The Bellingham Herald. “Due to a high-volume workload of more serious crimes, we often cannot consistently provide a timely response to all fireworks complaints.”

Elfo and county Fire Marshal Wain Harrison will educate the public about the new rule this year if it passes, Elfo said. Harrison said on average four to six brush or roof fires start each year around July 4 as a result of irresponsible fireworks use.

Bellingham imposed a fireworks ban that went into effect in 2014, and police and residents generally reported a quieter July 4 last year.

Blaine limits fireworks to July 1-5.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog and follow him on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.