The City Council has banned personal fireworks in west Blaine, including Semiahmoo Spit, and reduced the number of days people can shoot them off in the rest of Blaine to celebrate the Fourth of July.
That is short of a citywide ban on fireworks that had been one of the options before the council.
Council members unanimously approved the restrictions Monday, June 13. The new rules begin in 2017.
Blaine puts on a public fireworks display on the Fourth of July. That event isn’t affected by what the city approved.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Why the focus on personal fireworks
The council took up the issue initially at the request of the Semiahmoo Resort Association, whose president said large groups of people gathered in public areas on the spit last Fourth of July to shoot off a lot of fireworks and to party — leaving behind trash that included beer bottles and fireworks remnants.
The spit is home to Semiahmoo Resort, homes and the Semiahmoo Marina.
Later, other home associations and individuals expressed similar concerns about the activities at the spit, including the impact on harbor seal pups and other wildlife. They also were worried about people being hurt, pets being scared, and fires being sparked by lit fireworks that could or did land on roofs, decks and boats.
They said they don’t believe it’s Blaine residents who are at the spit.
But other residents who spoke at a June 13 public hearing said personal fireworks, also referred to as consumer fireworks, are part of Blaine’s heritage and a tradition that brings together families and neighborhoods.
What city leaders decided
▪ The City Council banned fireworks in west Blaine, public parks in the city, and the Blaine Harbor area, including Port of Bellingham property.
West Blaine is defined as parts of the city that are west of Shintaffer Road, including adjacent water bodies and beaches, and all of Semiahmoo Spit.
▪ People still will be able to set off fireworks in east Blaine, but only from 10 a.m. to midnight on July 4.
That means this is the last year people can legally set off fireworks from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1 through 3; 9 a.m. to midnight July 4; and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 5.
What they said
Marsha Hawkins, lifelong Blaine resident: She opposed a ban and restrictions.
“It seems part of what the Fourth of July should be. My neighborhood shoots them off like crazy, everybody, and it’s great fun. We love to watch them.”
She also is the wife of City Council member Charlie Hawkins.
Mary Lou Steward, City Council member: “It’s not as though there isn’t fireworks in Blaine. There are, beautiful fireworks. It’s not as though they can’t find somewhere for their personal fireworks, they can. It is that they should not be allowed to put them out in the spit near the harbor with all those boats.”
Steward said that as an anesthesiologist, she had to help two children hurt by fireworks 30 years ago. One lost an eye, the other a hand.
“It is too late for those children. Let us not make it too late for somebody else.”
Richard Thatcher, Blaine resident: “Things change, times change. Some traditions have to change. Endangering other individuals is not part of your right. Your rights stop where mine begin.”
Blaine isn’t alone in its partial ban and restrictions.
Bellingham has banned all personal fireworks. Only the major waterfront display on July 4, fireworks at Bellingham Bells games or other professional displays with a permit are allowed in city limits.
Starting in 2016, people may set off fireworks in Ferndale only on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.