A few months have passed since the July 4th fireworks fiasco, but we have not given up our goal of banning the sale and use of consumer fireworks because we value human health and safety, animals and the environment.
For over a year, we have made a compelling case that fireworks present an unnecessary risk that many counties in Washington state are unwilling to assume and that Island County should follow suit. While the Board of County Commissioners, or BOCC, agreed to code changes to eliminate fireworks on July 5 and make mortars illegal and will be discussing this at the Nov. 8 work session. We are not satisfied. We want the BOCC to implement the following county-wide:
Eliminate July 3 and Dec 31 as legal days for fireworks use.
Ban the sale of all aerial fireworks in Island County, regardless of what the BOCC defines as a mortar; it presents a conflicting message about what is acceptable.
Require annual enforcement plans from the sheriff, parks and recreation department and the county administrator, especially in county parks where fireworks are already banned. In 2023, the education and enforcement efforts were shallow and had no impact. There must be permanent signage at the parks and at the points of ingress at the ferries and Deception Pass bridge. Further, the sheriff has admitted there is a long history of illegal fireworks use, so there must be a staffing plan to ensure park users are prevented from starting to light them off.
Significantly increase penalty to $1,000 for first offense, $5,000 for second offense. The fact that people will spend thousands of dollars to light illegal fireworks makes the current penalty an ineffective deterrent.
Make rental property owners and managers liable for violations by their tenants.
In addition to the county-wide code changes noted above, we want a public vote for a complete ban on the use and sale of consumer fireworks in the area known as SWFEMS/SAB (South Whidbey Island Fire Emergency Management System/Service Area Boundaries) which includes Clinton, Langley (not including the City of Langley) and Freeland. We have considerable support from South Whidbey residents for a ban and we will continue to gather signatures on our petition and present this to the BOCC. We do believe that all citizens of Island County deserve safety and peace, but Janet St. Clair and Jill Johnson have said that they don’t believe their constituents want a ban; therefore, we ask Melanie Bacon to advocate for the public vote in her district.
As we have consistently stated: Professional, permitted fireworks displays sponsored by municipalities are a safe and humane way for people to celebrate. But the reckless, traumatic and dangerous use of private consumer fireworks must stop for the sake of the environment, animals and human safety.
Citizens for Safe and Humane
Fireworks in Island County