Sound Off: Clean up after your fireworks

By Robert Brown

On June 7, I attended a meeting of the Oak Harbor City Council. They covered a number of subjects, including recognition and appointment of certain city employees. Then came a discussion on a proposed Fireworks Ban Ordinance. This topic got a number of comments from the floor.

I am for a ban to some degree on the use of fireworks based on the past history of fireworks displayed in my neighborhood. I have had the live hot fireworks land in my yard and start a grass fire. Many land on my roof, and even scorched some of my roof. These are in addition to the many pieces of debris scattered all over my yard that I must clean up. Those setting off the fireworks do not clean up what their actions mess up. Also, my dog gets exposed to the debris, with a chance of ingesting some of the powder.

Those who wish to damage and destroy their own property and cause injury to their own family, feel free to do so. But keep such damage to your own property and family, not someone else’s in the neighborhood.

I suggest restricting any airborne fireworks.

A couple of other people had comments along the same line as I had. But there were a number of people who opposed the ban. One person was against the ban because fireworks had always been a part of the Fourth of July celebration. Then there were a few whose comments were right down the good old American business line, “if we can make a few bucks on the deal then it is a good thing.”

One woman pointed out that her organization sold fireworks and the income from the sale was donated to local “needs.” Would she have taken credit for what her sale did if those fireworks had caused a fire that destroyed someone’s home? She could point out how her fireworks had generated employment for local insurance agents, jobs for construction workers to rebuild the home, business for local furniture and appliance stores to refurnish the house and justify our police and fire departments when they respond to the fire. Yep, her sale of fireworks could really be credited for the movement of many dollars within Oak Harbor. If it had been my house that had been destroyed, however, I would not be very happy about how much business her fireworks sale generated.

Keep in mind, this did not happen, but it could. And if it was my house, I would be looking for the villain.

There were also some others who spoke against the ban, but they were not citizens of Oak Harbor. Two different speakers were from the fireworks display company out of Tacoma. Here is a hearing on a fireworks ban in Oak Harbor, and we get a visit from a fireworks company in Tacoma. Just shows you what will happen when you mess with the “almighty dollar.” They do not live here and are not affected by all the mess their fireworks cause. Just don’t do anything to slow down their sales. I am not aware of any law that places the “almighty dollar” ahead of safety.

The fire chief and the police chief were there and had some comments. I liked the Police Chief Almon’s comment, “If it goes up, it’s illegal. If it stays on the ground, it’s legal.”

When I was younger it was a big deal to set off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But since that time there have been a few changes that make events of those days not the ideal setting for 2005 and beyond.

First off, the size of the United States has not changed, but the population has gone up from 132 million to over 282 million — about 110 percent increase. We do not have the open space today that I once enjoyed. Next, the power of the fireworks have increased 15 to 20 times what was available in those days. If a firecracker went of in my hand, my hand would burn for a while and most likely I would cry. Today the chances are some kid would lose some fingers or even the whole hand.

I hope the city council can come up with a plan that can still keep the spirit of the Fourth of July alive and based on this being the birth of our nation and not just some day to blow up things. And at the same time, we can have a safe and sane day of enjoyment; one in which we do not have to clean up the mess left by others. Maybe in the new ordinance make it the responsibility of the person setting off the fireworks to also be the neighborhood cleanup person. “If you set it off, you clean it up, and within 24 hours.”

I ask the city council to at least put the responsibility for the firework cleanup on the ones who made the mess.

Robert Brown lives in Oak Harbor.

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