Vancouver lights fuse on process of limiting fireworks

City might allow only one day of legal use by 2014

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 

The city of Vancouver is proposing to only allow personal fireworks to be discharged on the Fourth of July, instead of allowing them July 1 through 4. What do you think?

  • Personal fireworks should be banned in Vancouver, but this is a step in the right direction. 17%
  • This is a perfect compromise -- keep the Fourth on the Fourth! 19%
  • This is a waste of time on a law that will be impossible to enforce. 16%
  • I don't like the idea because it will hurt the nonprofit organizations that sell fireworks. 35%
  • I don't like the idea because I love having four days to set off fireworks. 12%

521 total votes.

The Vancouver City Council moved forward Monday with an idea that's sure to set off sparks: only allowing personal fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Councilors unanimously agreed to have a public hearing, 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.

If approved after the hearing, the ordinance would go into effect in 2014.

State law requires 365 days notice for changes in the fireworks code, so it's too late to shorten the season for 2013.

Currently, the city allows personal fireworks to be sold for seven days (June 28 to July 4) and discharged for four days (July 1 to July 4).

Under the proposed ordinance, sales would be limited to three days (July 2 to July 4) and people could only make things go snap, crackle, and boom on July 4.

While Monday the ordinance was only on the council's consent agenda, for the purpose of setting the public hearing, more than a dozen people showed up to testify.

Of the 14 people who signed up to speak, 11 were in favor of restricting fireworks.

The residents who spoke out against fireworks used words and phrases such as "harrowing" and "war zone" and "living in fear" to describe the prolonged celebration of the holiday.

Stephanie Turlay, wife of Councilor Bill Turlay, said she won't really be happy until the city -- like other major cities in the state — bans personal fireworks, but she welcomed the council shortening the season.

Speakers described how the incessant noise can be particularly harmful to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and dogs. They also said people should not be allowed to terrorize neighbors in the name of patriotism.

Don Wilson of the Vancouver Elks, however, said selling fireworks is the largest money-making event for his organization.

While some speakers said nonprofit organizations need to find ways to raise money that don't cause other people such grief, Wilson said, "Where else do you raise $36,000 a year?"

If council members adopt the ordinance following the Oct. 1 hearing, they will include $10,000 for fireworks education and enforcement in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 budgets.

Councilors have acknowledged the difficulty of enforcing restrictions, particularly since cities and the county have different times on when fireworks are allowed.

In unincorporated Clark County, which includes parts of Vancouver's urban growth area such as Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek, fireworks can be discharged between June 28 and July 4.

Councilor Larry Smith said Monday the best way to address fireworks would be to work with the Board of County Commissioners on a consistent policy.

Commissioners have not been willing to consider shortening the season. The city of Washougal only allows personal fireworks on the Fourth of July, but other cities' policies are closer to the county's.

In June, the Vancouver City Council rejected a plan that would have banned all but "safe and sane" fireworks

The "safe but sane" policy, used in the state of Oregon, bans Roman candles and mortars as well as anything that travels more than 12 inches vertically or more than 15 feet horizontally from the source of ignition. Among the items considered "safe and sane" are sparklers, base and cone fountains, and ground blooms.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.