Vancouver council to vote on fireworks rule change

Supporters say proposal hard to enforce; foes dislike limits, revenue loss

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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The Vancouver City Council on Monday advanced plans to ban all but "safe and sane" fireworks similar to those allowed in Oregon, although residents speaking to them from both sides of the controversial topic seemed dissatisfied.

The first reading of an ordinance that would do away with aerial and mortar-style fireworks passed without comment from the city council members; it will go to a public hearing and vote on June 18.

Five speakers took three minutes each to give their take on the ordinance; no one expressed support of the plan.

"Politically, it will look like you did something," Vancouver resident Gary Wiram said of next week's vote. "But practically, it's doomed to fail and will leave both sides dissatisfied."

Under the proposed change, Roman candles and mortars would be banned, as would anything that travels more than 12 inches vertically or more than 15 feet horizontally from the source of ignition. Sparklers, base and cone fountains, ground blooms and smoke devices would remain acceptable.

If approved, the change would affect only activities within city limits and would not take effect until 2013.

The plan has divided both fans and foes of personal fireworks in Vancouver. Those who enjoy fireworks decry the new limitations, and point out that Indian reservations and stands in the unincorporated county will still offer more exciting options. Owners of nonprofit stands have expressed concern about revenue loss.

And those who dislike the noise and mayhem pointed out that the new laws would be difficult to enforce and don't go far enough in reducing fire, injury and trauma risk to veterans and household pets.

Michael Wilson spoke on behalf of the Vancouver Elks, which uses fireworks sales as its largest fundraiser. The group finances 13 children's sports teams and 300 food baskets every year, he said.

"If you reduce this to 'safe and sane' fireworks, it's not going to allow us to make the money that we do," Wilson said. "If nothing else, I suggest you put it up as a referendum and let the voters decide."

The public hearing and council vote is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 18 at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.