The Pierce County Council has received more support than discontent for its proposal to restrict the sale and use of fireworks around the Fourth of July holiday.
The majority of people who spoke at a council public safety committee meeting Monday favored the proposed limitations that would make it illegal to use fireworks any time other than July 4. The change would also limit firework sales to July 1 to July 4, instead of the current June 28 to July 5.
“These fireworks go off like umbrellas over the neighborhood,” said Spanaway resident Marie Smolko. “It gets worse every year. I can’t go out anymore and enjoy the municipal fireworks. I stay home outside in the yard with a hose.”
Stories of reckless neighbors and booms scaring animals were retold as people stepped to the podium to speak.
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Pierce County is the third highest in the state for fireworks-related injuries.
Pierce County Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma
“The struggle is real,” said Orting farm owner Carrie Little. She said hens at her Little Eorthe farm had their egg production drop by half the weeks before and after July 4.
Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma, proposed the restrictions in response to complaints received annually about firework usage. Pierce County is one of the last jurisdictions in the South Sound not to restrict firework use, Ladenburg said.
“Pierce County is the third-highest in the state for fireworks-related injuries,” she said. “That’s concerning. If there is some way that we can reduce that, it is our responsibility to try.”
The council received 88 emails so far from people about the proposed change, Ladenburg said. Of those, 79 supported the ban; nine opposed, she said.
A handful of people at Monday’s meeting represented the opposition. They included representatives from the firework wholesale and retail industry, including Pierce County-based Thunder Fireworks and TNT Fireworks, an industry lobbyist and a representative speaking on behalf of some of the nonprofit groups that use annual firework sales to raise money.
Reducing the days legal fireworks are sold will increase usage of illegal fireworks, they said. Most of the complaints aired Monday were about fireworks like M-80 explosives and fireworks that shoot into the air, which are already illegal under state law.
These fireworks go off like umbrellas over the neighborhood.
Marie Smolko, Spanaway resident
“This would create false expectations for people,” said Katie Westall with Thunder Fireworks. “Lets continue to work on educating the consumer about what is legal and illegal.”
Councilman Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, agreed saying if limitations are enacted people will expect a decline in use. If that doesn’t happen, they will be “twice as mad,” he said.
“All of this stuff is already illegal, it’s just not being enforced,” Roach said. “By passing this, are we passing this as a panacea that everything is going to be OK after this?”
Roach and Councilwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, said restricting fireworks sales is unrelated to limiting when fireworks can be used. They said they want to hear from Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor about improvement to enforcement.
The committee agreed to forward the proposal to the County Council for more discussion, but did not include a recommendation for approval or denial. The proposal could be heard in the next month, but a date has not be set yet.