Faced with protests from the fireworks industry and charities that depend on fireworks sales, the Pierce County Council on Tuesday approved a modest enhancement of fireworks laws.
Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg had proposed an ordinance that would have limited fireworks sales to the first four days of July and discharges to July 4. But a series of amendments from other council members watered down that proposal to a mild reduction in legal fireworks activities in unincorporated Pierce County.
The new rule approved by the council eliminates fireworks sales July 5, reducing the window for legal sales from eight days to seven.
The ordinance also shortens the permitted discharge periods from eight days to four in most years. Fireworks discharges will be allowed on the first four days of July and on July 5 in years when July 4 falls on Sunday.
The hours for discharging were shortened by one hour daily. Fireworks discharges will be permitted beginning at 10 a.m.
The new rules will become effective in July 2018 to allow fireworks retailers time to adjust.
Clearly disappointed that her proposal was diluted by amendments, Ladenburg nonetheless said she thought the new rules would offer some relief to residents and their animals beleaguered by explosions.
“The final ordinance as passed does offer some controls, some limitations, so it’s better than what we had previously,” she said after the vote.
The council’s unanimous approval of the new ordinance came after weeks of study and two rounds of public testimony at council meetings.
Citizens calling for stricter rules had complained that they and their pets and livestock were harmed and frightened by fireworks noise and endangered by rockets and incendiaries falling on their property.
Jerald Farley, who represented the fireworks industry, told council members Tuesday that rules wouldn’t solve the problems that caused residents’ ire. Despite prohibitions, “one thing has been inexorably happening: sales on reservations have gone up both in real dollars and as a percentage of sales,” he said.
“There’s not a single city or county in this state that has no fireworks going on,” he said.
Farley called for more public education about the danger of illegal fireworks.
Ladenburg said she plans to propose making unlawful discharge and sale of fireworks a civil violation like a parking ticket instead of the misdemeanor criminal offense it is now. That would allow deputies to issue suspected violators a citation rather than having to launch an involved criminal investigation.
Council Chairman Doug Richardson said the idea of making fireworks violations a civil offense was “a matter that certainly deserves discussion in the future.”