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Be safe with fireworks on the Fourth

Six-year-old Logan Martin helps organize merchandise at the Phantom Fireworks stand in Coupeville.  People wanting to purchase and use personal fireworks must adhere to state time and place restrictions. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Six-year-old Logan Martin helps organize merchandise at the Phantom Fireworks stand in Coupeville. People wanting to purchase and use personal fireworks must adhere to state time and place restrictions.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, many islanders are busy buying fireworks and planning their weekend celebrations. Meanwhile, police and fire officials are busy preparing for an influx of calls.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said that during the Fourth and the days leading up to the holiday, police stations are usually saturated with phone calls from people with firework-related emergencies and complaints. Brown said people and pets alike get disturbed by the increased noise and that disputes often arise between neighbors.

To minimize problems, he’s encouraging citizens to be respectful of those around them, to make sure that their personal fireworks are not landing on or affecting others’ property and to limit their alcohol consumption.

According to Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Dan Johnson, no cities in Island County have banned the use of fireworks, a situation that Brown doesn’t think will change.

“I don’t think a ban will happen because there’s quite a contingent on North Whidbey, and I think having the military base here is kind of an advocate for the Fourth of July celebration,” the sheriff said.

However, there are some area restrictions regarding where fireworks can be set off. Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace said fireworks are not allowed in city parks under normal circumstances and generally have to be shot off on private property with the property owner’s permission. Additionally, there are daily timeframe restrictions.

From now until July 3, fireworks can be lit between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. They can be used on the Fourth from 9 a.m. until midnight and on July 5 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Coupeville Fire Chief Ed Hartin said one of the most important things people can do to increase safety is take into account their surroundings and avoid areas with dry vegetation. Many people get caught up in the fun and forget that fireworks are explosives that produce hot flames, he said.

Hartin asks parents to prohibit their children from lighting fireworks and to heavily supervise their younger kids.

“I hate to say it,” Hartin said, “but the safest thing is to not use fireworks. Go to a professional display.” Fireworks shows are scheduled for the evening of July 3 in Freeland and July 4 in Oak Harbor.

But for those who insist on having their own, Hartin said under no circumstances should people buy illegal fireworks or tamper with legal fireworks.

“There are reasons why the regulations are the way that they are,” he said. All fireworks purchased from licensed retail stands should be legal.

People who neglect to follow the firework regulations are susceptible to fines or charges depending on the responding officers’ discretion.

Brown said that the sheriff’s office will try to respond to every call, but that calls will be prioritized based on the level of emergency.

“I hope everybody enjoys the holiday,” he said, “but I hope it’s safe.”

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