Lighting off illicit fireworks isn’t exactly stealthy, as far as crimes go. And in Vancouver, where fireworks have been banned since 2016, code enforcement officers from the fire marshal’s office have already started issuing tickets in the week leading up to the Fourth of July.
The fine for lighting fireworks within city limits is $500, for the first offense.
“They could be subject to more, if they cause property damage,” Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli cautioned.
It’s been fairly quiet so far in the days leading up to the holiday, Scarpelli said. But the big boom will likely come on Saturday. Last year, she reported, her office issued 64 tickets. In 2018, they clocked 104 violations on the holiday.
This year, she said, is a bit of a wild card. It’s a weird time in general. That strangeness could leak into Independence Day celebrations.
Usually, Vancouver residents would recognize the holiday by gathering at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and watching the annual fireworks extravaganza, an event that at the height of its 58-year history would draw 60,000 people. This year, the show has been canceled due to concerns about large crowds spreading COVID-19.
For other Fourth of July celebrations, too, the coronavirus is the proverbial fly in the watermelon.
A day that’s meant to bring communities together will need to adapt to the realities of social distancing, as the holiday weekend comes on the tail of the single worst week for new infections in the county since the outbreak started four months ago. Attendees at smaller-scale celebrations, from backyard barbecues to family beach trips, will also have to make their decisions with COVID-19 in mind.
People are antsy. They’re looking for an outlet, and it’s really, really fun to blow up stuff.
That restlessness is playing out at local fireworks retailers. Beau Leach, general manager of TNT Fireworks Warehouse in Hazel Dell, told The Columbian last week that sales aren’t just good this year — they’re “on fire.”
The storm of variables might amount to a busy night for the fire marshal’s office, Scarpelli said.