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Crackdown planned on illegal fireworks

People looking for an explosive Fourth of July filled with firecrackers and bottle rockets should know that such fireworks are illegal and officers are serious about writing tickets this year.

Capt. Rick Wallace of Oak Harbor Police Department said officers will be handing out more citations compared to the written warnings customarily issued in the past.

“We’re trying to emphasize enforcement this year over last year because of the number of complaints we received,” Wallace said.

People caught violating the city’s fireworks regulations risk receiving a $250 fine and confiscation of any illegal fireworks.

Wallace said the numbers of fireworks complaints have increased in recent years and the police make hundreds of confiscations during the season.

In previous years, police would often issued warnings when confiscating illegal fireworks or catching folks igniting fireworks outside established hours.

Legal fireworks can be set off beginning Monday, June 28, at noon and continuing to 11 p.m.; June 29 to July 3, and July 5, fireworks can be set off from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m; July 4, fireworks can be discharged from 9 a.m. to midnight.

Fireworks including sparklers, fountains, torches and ground spinners can be set off. Fireworks such as rockets, firecrackers and “sky rockets” are illegal to purchase, possess or discharge in the state, even though they are available on Indian reservations.

In Oak Harbor, legal fireworks can be purchased from booths at Ennens, Wal-Mart, Market Place, Safeway, and the Chamber of Commerce lot next to the 7-11 near Albertsons.

For the Garfield Masonic Lodge and the Rainbow Girls the money they raise at the Wal-Mart booth goes to scholarship funds and the National Children’s Cancer Society.

Digger O’Dell, master at the Garfield Masonic Lodge, said around $4,500 was raised last year.

Fireworks won’t be delivered there until Sunday morning. Once that happens, someone has to stay with the fireworks 24 hours a day.

Jan Smith, spokesperson for the Island County Sheriff’s Office, said the Fourth of July week is one of the busiest times of the year.

Even though deputies are busy this week, she encourages people to report any suspicious activity or any instances of illegal fireworks.

“We want everybody to have a safe and patriotic holiday,” Smith said.

One regulation change this year concerns public displays of fireworks. Applications for such displays will only be considered during the same time people can legally discharge fireworks, Smith said. She said there are parties and events that have been held throughout the year that have used fireworks. However, those applications will no longer be considered.

Because of the weather conditions, local fire departments hope people take extra care in handling fireworks this year.

“It’s dry and it wouldn’t take much to get stuff to ignite,” said Battalion Chief Ray Merrill of the Oak Harbor Fire Department.

Captain Robert Spinner of the Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue said that the department is approaching the Fourth of July week the same way as it does wildfire season.

Firefighters qualified to handle wildfires have taken a refresher course and the fire district has two vehicles designed to respond to wildfires, Spinner said.

“Our equipment is ready and our people are ready. But we just hope it doesn’t come to fruition,” Spinner said.

When it’s legal

Legal fireworks can be set off beginning Monday, June 28, in Oak Harbor and Island County. Following are the hours set by law:

June 28: 12 noon to 11 p.m.

June 23 through July 3, and July 5: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

July 4: 9 a.m. to midnight.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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