Opinion

Safe and sane: Allow fireworks in Pierce one day only

From the editorial board

Two girls sprint away after setting off a firework at the old Emerald Queen Casino site in 2013. Different cities have different rules for what's legal and what's not when it comes to fireworks.
Two girls sprint away after setting off a firework at the old Emerald Queen Casino site in 2013. Different cities have different rules for what's legal and what's not when it comes to fireworks. News Tribune file photo

Lawns still have a slight green hue in the middle of August. The first 90-degree days of the year have finally dawned. And the state was able to hold off issuing burn bans until this week.

With conditions like these, South Sound residents know they’ve been blessed with a fairly mild summer of 2016.

But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Memories of last year’s record heat wave and wildfire season, which left more than 1 million acres scorched, should serve notice that Washington remains vulnerable to the ruinous effects of drought and climate change.

One of the dumbest things humans can do to a parched landscape is introduce thousands of random ignition points by blowing up fireworks.

That’s why the Pierce County Council ought to adopt an ordinance this summer that would reduce the time when Independence Day fireworks can be legally discharged from eight days to one. The public will have a chance to comment to a council committee on Monday (Aug. 22) at 1:30 p.m.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, doesn’t go as far as an outright fireworks ban like Tacoma and a few other local cities have. It throws a bone to the irrepressible do-it-yourself pyrotechnicians of the Spanaway-Parkland-Midland area, and beyond.

What it would do is tell people they can only unleash their arsenals between 10 a.m. and midnight on July 4, starting in 2018. (State law requires local governments to wait a full year before new fireworks restrictions go into effect.)

That means no more lighting up the sky on June 28-July 3, and no more shooting off your leftovers on July 5. It also would shorten the number of days fireworks could be sold; retail stands could be open July 1 to July 4.

The amateur artillery misadventures of 2015 provide a snapshot showing why fireworks season should be shortened. While the bulk of the fires (178) that firefighters responded to happened on the holiday itself, an additional 240 calls came in on the seven other legal days. One of those calls was to a $450,000 home that went up in flames on July 5, displacing a family.

Allowing eight days of this freedom-loving anarchy not only threatens property and trashes streets, it also exacts a prolonged sensory toll on those who walk on two legs as well as four. The county could easily open a trauma ward for shellshocked animals – cats, dogs, even horses at the Tacoma Equine Hospital in Midland. “Once they get traumatized, they just run,” Monica Wylie of the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society told the News Tribune last month.

The one-day window makes geographic sense because it would align with existing rules in the neighboring territory of unincorporated King County. It also would mesh with communities such as Puyallup, Sumner and Orting, where the borders between city and county can be fuzzy.

We hope all other local cities and towns will follow the county’s lead and ditch their hodgepodge of legal days and hours. Those who don’t ban fireworks should at least adopt a simple July 4 detonation period.

Combine consistent calendars with consistent law enforcement, and the South Sound will have all the more reason to celebrate Independence Day.

With an emphasis on “Day.”

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