Time for Tumwater, county to ban fireworks

In just a few days, South Sound residents will celebrate our nation’s birthday. There will be backyard barbecues, family reunions and patriotic celebrations. Some residents will also set off fireworks, annoying neighbors and frightening family pets and wildlife.

Olympia residents proved just how unpopular fireworks have become by overwhelmingly – 58 percent – approving a 2011 ballot proposition to ban the sale and discharge of personal fireworks within city limits. That ban went into effect last year, 12 months after the city council passed an ordinance based on the public vote.

The city’s ordinance was appropriately modeled on a similar law passed by the City of Lacey in 2007. That made provisions and penalties consistent between the two jurisdictions.

That leaves the City of Tumwater glaringly out of step on this issue. The Tumwater City Council did amend its fireworks ordinance in 2012 to limit fireworks discharge to July 3 and 4, and between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. But that doesn’t go far enough, and creates confusion for residents and law enforcement where city boundaries split neighborhoods.

Will it take a tragic personal injury or house fire before Tumwater finally does the right thing? We hope not.

We encourage the City of Tumwater to begin the process to ban the sale and discharge of personal fireworks within city limits by passing a city ordinance this year that would, as prescribed by state law, take effect in 2016.

Thurston County could jump on the bandwagon, too, and ban the sales and discharge of personal fireworks countywide.

It is difficult to justify the continued use of legal fireworks –let alone illegal ones – in urban areas such as Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater. The Department of Ecology is warning people that breathing the fine particles in fireworks smoke can create or add to health problems.

Air quality monitoring in Lacey around previous July 4ths have recorded three to four times the concentration of harmful particles above the level that sparks a burn ban.

Statistics from the Office of the Sate Fire Marshall show that as more municipalities ban the discharge of personal fireworks, the number of fireworks-related injuries and fires have declined, as much as 17 percent year over year. Still, that left 264 fires created by fireworks, more than a half-million dollars in property loss and 212 people injured.

South Sound residents have several opportunities to enjoy commercial fireworks displays in all three local municipalities during July. There’s no need to tempt personal injury by setting off your own legal or illegal fireworks.

The Fourth of July should be a time of great pride in America. Our nation’s founders would want us to have a safe and sane birthday party.