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Pierce County looks to limit firework sales, discharge around July 4 holiday

The Pierce County Council is reviewing a proposal to limit when fireworks can be sold and ignited in unincorporated areas. The proposed restriction would reduce the sale period from its current seven days to four days. It would also limit when they could be used from the current seven days to one day, July 4.
The Pierce County Council is reviewing a proposal to limit when fireworks can be sold and ignited in unincorporated areas. The proposed restriction would reduce the sale period from its current seven days to four days. It would also limit when they could be used from the current seven days to one day, July 4. The Olympian/FILE 2009

The Pierce County Council is considering reducing by half the number of days fireworks are sold in unincorporated areas and limiting the use of fireworks to July 4 only.

The restriction doesn’t apply to firework sales on Native American reservations.

Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma, proposed the change, citing a slew of complaints received annually from people upset with excessive use of fireworks.

Local governments including Tacoma, Ruston, Fircrest and Steilacoom, have total bans on fireworks sales and use. A press release from Ladenburg called her proposed changes a “balance” between those who want fireworks banned and those who don’t.

The public can comment on the proposal at a council committee meeting Monday at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers at the County-City Building, 930 Tacoma Ave.

Pierce County follows state law regulating the sale and use of legal fireworks. State law allows firework sales and use from June 28 to July 5.

Fireworks that shoot into the air like bottle rockets, or make loud booms like M-80s are illegal under state law.

The best you can do is educate people, appeal to their common sense and hope that they’ll do it.

Karen Gower, TNT Fireworks

Ladenburg’s proposal would reduce sales to July 1 through July 4 from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. each day. It would limit discharge to July 4 only from 10 a.m.-midnight.

Pierce County Fire Marshal Warner Webb estimates he annually issues 45 to 48 permits for stands in unincorporated Pierce County.

More than half of those permits were issued to TNT Fireworks and Thunder Fireworks, Webb said.

Representatives from both companies are unhappy with Ladenburg’s proposal.

“This ordinance would really be devastating,” said Katie Westall, with Thunder Fireworks based in Frederickson.

Thunder Fireworks had 10 retail stands in unincorporated Pierce County this year. The majority of the stands are used by nonprofits, school youth organizations or other community groups looking to raise money, Westall said.

Most of these groups rely on the weeklong sales to generate the bulk of their fundraising dollars for the year, she said.

“It brings in the most money of anything else I’ve seen, and it’s the easiest for these people to do,” she said.

Westall estimated the stands would see a 30 percent drop in revenue if sales were limited to four days. The company would see a similar decline in wholesale sales, she said.

This ordinance would really be devastating.

Katie Westall, Thunder Fireworks

Karen Gower, spokeswoman with TNT Fireworks in Tacoma, cited similar concerns.

Limiting fireworks sales won’t stop people from buying them or setting them before July 4, Gower said.

If stands with legal fireworks aren’t open, “the only option is the reservation stands and bringing back illegal fireworks,” she said.

Gower lives in Tacoma and said from her experience the city’s firework ban hasn’t stopped people from using them around the Fourth — or anytime the Seahawks score a touchdown, she said.

“The fact is, it’s not working in Tacoma, it’s not working anywhere,” Gower said. “The best you can do is educate people, appeal to their common sense and hope that they’ll do it.”

A previous attempt to limit firework use by the County Council failed to gain council support in 2012.

The cities of Bonney Lake, DuPont, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Orting, Puyallup, Sumner and University Place have stricter regulations than state law.

If the county approves Ladenburg’s proposal, it would take effect in July 2018.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

Pierce County Council considers fireworks restrictions

What: The public is invited to comment on a proposal to further restrict the number of days fireworks can be sold and discharged in unincorporated Pierce County

Where: County-City Building, 930 Tacoma Ave. S., Room 1045

When: Monday (Aug. 22), 1:30 p.m.

More: If you can’t make the meeting, comments can be made online at bit.ly/countyfireworks.

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