Illegal fireworks resulted in far more brush fires than citations in Tacoma around the Fourth of July holiday.
The number of fires started by fireworks skyrocketed this year because of dry conditions and record-setting heat. Firefighters said they put out 54 fireworks-induced blazes in the city between June 26 and July 6.
“Whenever conditions get this way, the probability of things catching on fire is very high,” department spokesman Joe Meinecke said Tuesday.
The last time Tacoma firefighters contended with that many fires started by fireworks was 2009, when they were called out to 58. Last year, fireworks caused 16 fires, according to city statistics.
Damage from this year’s fires was put at $44,301.
Officials said they were not surprised by the spike in July 4 blazes this year because grass and brush fires have become commonplace because of the warmer year.
Gov. Jay Inslee, prompted by several calls to his office, looked into implementing a statewide ban on fireworks around the holiday but found he did not have the authority.
Fireworks are illegal in several cities, including Tacoma, but they are legal in unincorporated Pierce County and other communities.
Those caught setting off fireworks in Tacoma are subject to a $257 fine. Firefighters and police officers worked together in the weeks leading up to the holiday to distribute fliers noting that fireworks were illegal and can be dangerous.
Still, some folks didn’t heed the warning.
One person lost an arm while playing with a sparkler bomb. No other serious injuries were reported.
Police said they received 583 calls about fireworks from July 2-5, a nearly 8 percent increase from last year. Out of those calls, officers issued 17 tickets.
That number is small because officers cannot give citations without seeing somebody with fireworks.
“People see police cars coming and they hide the fireworks or take them inside,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said. “We made several educational contacts, but without seeing them actually firing them off, we don’t cite them.”
Up to six officers were paid overtime to patrol Tacoma from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. over the holiday and responded solely to fireworks-related calls.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653