Clark County residents have the opportunity this election to vote on up to six nonbinding questions proposed by Clark County commissioners. But of those six measures, the only one commissioners have any policy control over is in regard to the use and sale of fireworks.
The commissioners don’t have sole control over light-rail projects. The commissioners don’t act alone in the formation of a bus rapid transit system. And despite asking citizens for their opinions on what bridges they would like to see built over the Columbia River, the commissioners don’t have authority over a state-to-state infrastructure project spanning a federal waterway.
Advisory Vote No. 6, however, asks voters whether the commissioners should enact a local ordinance in the unincorporated areas of Clark County that limits the sale of fireworks to July 2, 3 and 4 while also limiting the use of fireworks to July 4.
The county has the authority to regulate the use and sale only outside of city limits.
Supporting the limitation of fireworks are individuals seeking to reduce fire danger and limit the noise and light pollution fireworks cause.
Dick Deleissegues, fire commissioner with Fire District 3, which covers Hockinson and Brush Prairie, and former member of the county planning commission, said limiting fireworks will reduce stress on local emergency crews and cut the danger associated with fires during the summer.
“We don’t have a whole lot more fires around the Fourth of July, but the conditions around the Fourth of July are really good for fire,” said Deleissegues, also a former engineer with the U.S. Forest Service who was involved with combating several forest fires during his career.
“It’s hot, it’s dry and it’s windy. I would say most of the people here are really good about the use of fireworks, and those are the folks who pretty much do it in one day anyway.”
Further, Deleissegues said a change to county code will bring it in line with the city of Vancouver, reducing confusion. In 2012, the Vancouver city council decided to limit use and sale of fireworks to the exact same days the county is proposing. That city ordinance takes effect in 2014.
Opposing the changes to the county’s fireworks rules are those saying it hurts local businesses and nonprofits that rely on the financial boon of fireworks sales.
Elson Strahan, president of the Fort Vancouver National Trust, said he believes changes to the code could affect the way the annual Fort Vancouver Fourth of July show is funded.
The trust sells fireworks each year to pay for the roughly $400,000 show, and about 25 percent of the funding comes from the sale of consumer fireworks.
“It is a source of revenue that is likely to be impacted by curtailing the number of days to sell,” Strahan said. “For other organizations, it is funding to carry out their missions. For us, it’s to carry out the Independence Day celebration.”
Further, Strahan said, with only one day to launch fireworks, people may opt to skip the community show in favor of a family celebration.