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Sept. 22, 2021

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Clark County bans sale, use of fireworks

Ban in effect immediately due to extreme risk of fire danger

By , Columbian Web Editor,
, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor,
, Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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Stacks of fireworks sit atop shelves Thursday at the TNT Fireworks Warehouse in Hazel Dell. Clark County banned the use and sale of fireworks effective Tuesday.
Stacks of fireworks sit atop shelves Thursday at the TNT Fireworks Warehouse in Hazel Dell. Clark County banned the use and sale of fireworks effective Tuesday. (Taylor Balkom/for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County has banned the sale and use of fireworks in unincorporated areas through midnight July 4, the end of the fireworks season. In doing so, the county joins almost all other local jurisdictions.

“We recognize that this decision will cause some hardship to some residents’ celebration plans, as well as businesses and nonprofit organizations that sell fireworks,” County Council Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “We empathize with all who are affected, but we must follow county codes. They are in place to protect the welfare and safety of Clark County residents.”

The ban includes Hazel Dell, Felida, Orchards, Salmon Creek, Hockinson, Amboy and other parts of the county that lie outside city limits.

John Yadon, the owner of Dynamite Fireworks Warehouse at 7800 N.E. Highway 99, expressed his frustration over the ban and said it was uncalled for.

Getting a license to sell fireworks is a long process that takes time and money, he said. In previous years, Yadon worked closely with the fire marshal to ensure what’s occurred now wouldn’t happen.

“Yesterday, they gave us the permit in the morning to open at noon (Monday), and now just this morning, I get a phone call telling me they’re going to be taking the permit back from us. It’s crazy,” he said.

Ben Sellman, a worker at Dynamite Fireworks Warehouse, said the decision is going to be “catastrophic” for businesses that sell fireworks. There are about 12 stands near the Vancouver city limits.

“We have four trailers worth of products,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to store that product another year or unload it. We’re trying to recover from this financially.”

Sellman said roughly $1 million of revenue could be lost because of the ban, and 30 workers at the stand will have to be laid off. Most of them have other employment, he said.

“We never expected this to happen,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years and been through more dangerous years for wildfires. Right now, you look around and the grass is green. The rest of the week is going to be in the 80s (degrees). For them to call it like this is unexpected.”

Sellman said he is expecting the Clark County Council to get backlash from fireworks vendors, although the announcement was still new and emotions were still high Tuesday morning.

“We’re going to fight for our freedoms and fight for our rights,” he said.

County code addresses risk

The county is implementing the ban in accordance with Clark County code, which allows the county council chair, after consulting with the fire marshal, to ban the sale and discharge of fireworks during periods of extreme fire danger. The county has met the established criteria.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources reported adverse data on the following metrics as outlined in the Clark County code:

  • The burning index is extreme as determined for the entire county.
  • The fuel moisture content of the 10-hour fuels is below eight anywhere in the county.
  • The energy release component is in the 90th percentile.

“We’ve had an unusually dry spring for the Pacific Northwest,” Clark County Fire Marshal Dan Young said. “That coupled with a record-breaking heat wave led to conditions that increase our fire danger risk in Clark County.”

Quiring O’Brien addressed the contentious decision at a Tuesday county council meeting.

“I regret that that’s going to hurt some businesses, but we really do need to protect our community, I’m afraid, with this criteria, which is stringent,” she said.

The county council and Young plan to discuss the ban in more detail at 10 a.m. today. To listen to the meeting, dial 408-418-9388 — access code 187 814 3420 — or watch the recording posted after the meeting on the county’s YouTube account.

“I hope that families will be able to celebrate in another way with picnics and other things,” Quiring O’Brien said. “A somewhat hard decision. In some ways, it felt like a very commonsense decision. We have a code. I’m going to abide by the law.”

Other Clark County jurisdictions have banned fireworks due to fire danger, including Battle Ground, Ridgefield, La Center, Camas and Washougal. Vancouver already bans sales and use of fireworks within city limits. Portland also announced a fireworks ban on Tuesday morning.

The ban for the Fourth of July holiday does not affect the discharge of fireworks 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dec. 31 as allowed in county code.

The cities of Camas and Washougal, which banned only the discharge of fireworks on Monday, announced Tuesday that they were also banning the sale and purchase of fireworks, according to a news release from the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

Columbian staff writer
Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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