Fireworks restrictions in Whatcom County start next year

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

Personal fireworks use in unincorporated Whatcom County will be limited to evenings on July 3-5 and New Year’s Eve, starting next year.

The County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, June 23, to reduce the number of days around the Fourth of July holiday when fireworks may be discharged. This is the last year residents outside the cities can discharge fireworks on the days allowed by state law, June 28 to July 5. The county will continue to follow the state rule allowing fireworks on Dec. 31.

Council members said allowing the use of fireworks for a full week was too stressful for pets and for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Council member Pete Kremen also mentioned increased fire risk.

County Fire Marshal Wain Harrison has said on average four to six brush or roof fires start each year around July 4 as a result of irresponsible fireworks use.

Five people spoke Tuesday at the council’s public hearing on the fireworks rules, most of them opposed to the new restrictions. Two said they owned fireworks businesses. Some of them said tighter fireworks rules would be a burden on the Sheriff’s Office, which would find them difficult to enforce.

Sheriff Bill Elfo has said he supported the new rules.

“He said to me, ‘Eighty to 90 percent of the public will do the right thing’” and not use fireworks during restricted days, said council member Barbara Brenner, who sponsored the rules. She was quoting Elfo, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The county is the fourth local jurisdiction to permanently restrict fireworks use more than the state does. Blaine allows fireworks July 1-5, which includes Canada Day on July 1. A full ban on fireworks went into effect in Bellingham in 2014. Ferndale will limit fireworks use to July 4 and Dec. 31 starting next year.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com.