Vancouver will explore use of 'safe, sane' fireworks year-round

Councilor Burkman says people face fines for using sparklers

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Vancouver will explore allowing "safe and sane" fireworks year-round, while keeping aerial and loud fireworks limited to the Fourth of July.

On Monday, Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman said he'd like a workshop on the topic, where councilors could discuss the pros and cons of letting people enjoy items such as sparklers without worrying about receiving a $250 fine for violating the city's fireworks law.

Burkman said he doesn't want to discuss amending the law, which went into effect this year. It restricts the discharge of personal fireworks to the Fourth of July.

At the same time, he said, it doesn't seem right that people could be fined for using sparklers at a birthday party.

More than 40 people were ticketed for violating the law this year, including one family that was using sparklers and fountains, according to a Vancouver Police Department memo.

Councilor Bill Turlay seconded Burkman's idea for a workshop, which under council policy was necessary for City Manager Eric Holmes to schedule a workshop.

No date has been set.

Burkman said he's been through many meetings on fireworks, and they are always complicated.

He doesn't have the perfect answer, he said.

"I just don't think we're in the right place yet," Burkman said.

Councilor Larry Smith said new laws often have unintended consequences and it would be a good idea to discuss the issue.

Burkman's proposal follows reports from Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli and Lt. Greg Raquer, both of whom expressed concern about handing out expensive fines to families who were using relatively minor fireworks and didn't know about the new law.

Statewide, Vancouver's the largest city that still allows personal fireworks.

Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle noted that jurisdictions all have different definitions of "safe and sane," but they are generally fireworks that don't explode or fly high into the air. Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt added that he believes most of them can be purchased at party stores.

Adding a "safe and sane" rule would add another layer of complexity to fireworks laws in the county. Nine jurisdictions have five different schedules on when they can be discharged.

Many people ticketed for violating Vancouver's law told police they bought the fireworks in unincorporated Clark County, where fireworks can be discharged from June 28 through July 4.