Editorial: Crazy time arrives again

The founders of this great nation might have been amused at the craziness that presently surrounds Independence Day in the land of the free.

The Fourth of July holiday is a time to honor the principles on which our nation was founded and to show appreciation to the men and women who fight to keep those principles alive. But it’s also a time to wonder at the mystery of our laws surrounding fireworks and how any sense can be made of them.

Washington has a great number of state and local laws governing the sale and use of fireworks, but most are ignored by thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens. It’s the state’s reluctance to face reality that triggers this disdain for the law. We can’t legally purchase firecrackers or, if we get our hands on them, deign to use them to celebrate the Fourth. But throngs line up at the reservation fireworks shops that dot the Puget Sound region and go home with armloads of “illegal” fireworks and even more dangerous missiles and rockets. After spending so much money, it’s unlikely they’ll follow the law and not use them.

Meanwhile, cities and towns have started banning the use of fireworks entirely. This invites civil disobedience or forces revelers out-of-town to turn the countryside into a nightmare of explosions and pyrotechnics. This is particularly apparent in Island County where the islands’ beaches attract thousands of people who shoot fireworks toward the water, leaving tons of refuse in their wake. Property owners and environmentally-minded volunteers never lack for work on July 5.

Meanwhile, law enforcement is charged with the impossible task of enforcing laws that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and that thousands happily ignore. All the laws and associated confusion have resulted in virtual fireworks anarchy in which anything goes if one can get away with it.

Citizens should of course obey the law, assuming they know what it is. But the overarching need is to use common sense. Don’t let unsupervised children play with fireworks. Show respect for neighbors by not using fireworks too late or directing burning projectiles toward their property. If notified that fireworks are bothering someone’s pet, move to some other location. And always be aware of the fire danger. Summer so far has been somewhat moist but the forests and grasslands are still extremely dry. So have a bucket handy and don’t take any chances.

Crazy season statewide begins at noon Thursday when fireworks go on sale, and ends at 11 p.m. July 5 when the holiday officially ends, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Of course, local regulations may vary. Common sense, hopefully, is the same statewide.

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