At least annually — and often more frequently — Vancouver's city councilors allow themselves to venture into the figurative battlefield of fireworks regulations. There, they fret, deliberate and absorb verbal abuse from both sides of the eternal dispute over a literal battlefield: the detonation of fireworks by regular citizens, which is allowed in no other major city in the state.Well, this week the councilors charged intrepidly back onto the battlefield of public controversy, and you've got to give 'em credit for at least tackling a tough issue that won't be resolved anytime soon, and never at all to everyone's satisfaction. Monday, the council conducted another workshop on fireworks, this time studying the possibility of limiting the sale of fireworks to three days, and the use of fireworks to just one day, July 4.
Currently in Vancouver proper, there's a seven-day period of fireworks sales (June 28 to July 4) and a four-day period for use (July 1 to July 4).
The most significant two words in that previous sentence are "Vancouver proper." Therein lies the problem. Eight cities in Clark County — plus the large unincorporated portion including many urban areas such as Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek and Orchards — have constructed a dizzying patchwork of fireworks rules.
Every year, The Columbian and each jurisdiction's public officials urge people to follow the fireworks rules, and yet laboring through the labyrinthine list and sorting through the details challenges the patience of the most law-abiding citizen. Plus, many residents in unincorporated areas don't even know if they live in or out of official city limits.
This is why The Columbian has repeatedly urged more conformity among the fireworks rules-makers.
As for the latest foray by Vancouver City Councilors into fireworks regulations, they should take no small measure of confidence from the fact that previous changes have proved successful. In 2003, Vancouver banned fireworks on New Year's Eve (the county did the same thing a few years earlier), and few people seem to mind. Then in 2009, Vancouver councilors wisely banned fireworks on July 5, fortifying our belief that blowing up stuff on July 5 is like opening Christmas presents on Dec. 26: strangely anticlimactic, to say the least.
Then, Vancouver officials began narrowing the windows of fireworks sales and use. If they further narrowed that rule, as contemplated, to just one day of fireworks use on July 4, it's likely Vancouver residents will survive such a encroachment on their pyrotechnic pandemonium. And, we would remind them that one day of fireworks use is one day more than is allowed in every other major city in the state.
Often lost in this debate is the fact that — although each side is rigid in its stance — each side makes valid points, which is the foundation for a reasonable compromise. No hope of that ever happening can be entertained, however, until county commissioners show the first willingness to work with municipalities to adopt a system of rules with any hint of uniformity.