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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office issues 32 fireworks citations

‘Unprecedented’ call volume at dispatch center on July 4

By , Columbian staff reporter

The Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office stepped up its illegal fireworks enforcement this year and issued 32 citations surrounding the Fourth of July holiday, according to data released by the office Tuesday.

Local fire crews remained busy responding to a large number of calls amid a regional Red Flag warning over extreme fire conditions during the holiday. As hot and dry weather continues, Assistant Vancouver Fire Marshal Chad Lawry warns people to continue to be vigilant about fire safety.

Officials at Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency described the call volume into the dispatch center on the night of July 4 as “unprecedented.”

Seven volunteers staffed the agency’s fireworks complaint line, which was set up to keep the emergency lines open for other needs. Greg Rossmiller, assistant operations manager at Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, said more people utilized the complaint line this year and fewer fireworks calls clogged up the 911 lines, which were staffed by 20 people.

The volunteers handled 1,492 complaints through the call center and an online complaint form. Callers were referred to the web form from June 28 to 30 or during daylight hours, Rossmiller said. Last year, the call center received 750 calls over three nights.

“As expected, it was the busiest night our staff have ever been tasked to work through by quite a margin,” Rossmiller said in an email.

Investigators also confiscated fireworks in 34 incidents, Lawry said, including some when the suspects fled from responders and abandoned their unused fireworks. Patrols began June 28, when fireworks went on sale in the county, and continued through July 5. Of the 32 citations issued, 22 were issued on July 4, according to Lawry. The $500 citations, issued with the help of the Vancouver Police Department, totaled $16,000, he said.

Last year, the Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office said it issued no citations and focused on giving warnings about the city’s fireworks ban. In 2021, the office issued seven citations, confiscated fireworks 16 times on the holiday and issued nine warnings. In 2020, the fire marshal’s office issued 45 citations, down from 64 citations in 2019 and 104 citations in 2018, Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli previously told The Columbian.

Area fire agencies responded to 30 fires between June 28 and July 16 caused by fireworks, Lawry said. It was unclear where those fires were and which agencies investigated them. The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office reported two weeks ago that it investigated six fires caused by fireworks surrounding the holiday, which caused nearly $1 million in damage.

The Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office could continue to issue more fireworks citations, Lawry said, and he noted one fire Sunday at a park near the Vancouver waterfront was caused by fireworks.

Lawry encourages people to continue to call 311 to report fireworks or call 911 to report a fire.