Island County cops fear rowdy July 4 weekend

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown is predicting a busy, possibly explosive, Fourth of July weekend.

“Complaints will probably double because it’s on a weekend,” he said. “But weather will influence a lot of what goes on.”

For now, meteorologists are predicting a pleasant Independence Day weekend, with patchy clouds and highs in the upper 60s.

Fireworks fans can purchase legal pyrotechnics and light them off during the prescribed times. The same rules apply in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and the unincorporated areas of the county.

As Brown explained, they are no longer called “safe and sane” fireworks. Now the legal fireworks are referred to in state law as “consumer fireworks.” They include sparklers, Roman candles, smoke devices and spinners.

Illegal fireworks include firecrackers and any type of sky rocket. These are commonly purchased on Indian reservations.

Consumer fireworks may be discharged between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. through July 3; between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight on July 4; and between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 5.

It’s easy to find consumer fireworks. Ray Merrill, the battalion chief for Oak Harbor Fire Department, said there are four stands in Oak Harbor alone. But he cautions folks that it’s illegal to discharge any type of firework on public property, including the Navy base.

Both Brown and Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace are scheduling as many officers as possible to work the holiday weekend.

“I’m sure all the parties will lead to problems downtown and elsewhere,” said Wallace, who added that the city’s parade and fireworks display are especially busy times for cops.

The good news, he said, is that they’ve received fewer fireworks complaints than usual in recent weeks.

Brown, who plans to work patrol during the long weekend, warned that deputies will not turn a blind eye to illegal fireworks or discharges outside the allowed time. Yet he also wants citizens to understand that law enforcement may be extremely busy and fireworks complaints may not be the top priority.

“We want as much as anybody for people to have a good time of the Fourth of July,” he said. “But we also want everyone to be safe.”

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