Changes coming to Coupeville fireworks code

Coupeville will likely increase the ability to restrict the use of fireworks in dry weather.

The Coupeville Town Council will likely approve a code change at an upcoming meeting that would increase the mayor’s ability to restrict the use of fireworks in dry weather.

Mayor Molly Hughes proposed this and other changes to the town fireworks code during a June 14 council meeting. The council will take action on the proposed changes at a future council meeting.

The changes, if approved, will not go into effect until next year.

The town of Coupeville only allows residents to discharge fireworks from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July. Hughes said last year’s hot, dry weather around the time of the holiday concerned her, and she was surprised that Island County was not at a burn ban level that prohibited fireworks at the time.

She suggested two possible courses of action with regards to the cancellation of fireworks displays. The town could adopt language that causes it to automatically follow Island County, should the county put a fireworks ban in place at any point prior to the allotted fireworks time slot.

The second option, and the one Hughes preferred, was that the code include a provision allowing the mayor to prohibit fireworks seven days before the holiday if she, in consultation with local officials with knowledge of fire risk during extreme weather conditions, determines the discharge of fireworks to present a hazard.

“I really believe that we should know seven days in advance if we feel the weather is that extreme,” she said. “And I think people deserve a heads up to let their families know, ‘Okay, you can come here, but we’re not going to discharge fireworks,’ or to make alternate plans.”

The mayor also suggested making the fine for illegally discharging fireworks equal to the fine for illegally selling fireworks. In the current code, illegally discharging fireworks carries a fine of up to $50. Hughes’ new draft code would increase the fine to a possible $1,000, plus up to 90 days in Island County jail.

The proposed change that sparked the most discussion among council members was language that allowed people to set off fireworks in town outside the designated hours “by permit approved by the town council for public display or special event such as commercial film production.”

Councilmember Pat Powell questioned the provision, saying it would be difficult to remain consistent in which requests were granted permits and that she would prefer fireworks never be discharged in town for any events outside of designated Independence Day hours.

Allowing a film company to set off fireworks would not create any tangible benefit for town residents, Powell said. She suggested the discharge of fireworks outside July 4 be restricted to the town itself.

Hughes said she would bring the updated draft code before the council with an ordinance for a vote at a future meeting.