Fireworks that boom may lead to busts this Fourth of July.
Sales in unincorporated areas of the county began today ahead of the holiday. The county and a number of cities have enacted a wide range of rules regarding sales and use to curb fire, injury and waste.
Fireworks can be used on the holiday from 9 a.m. to midnight in unincorporated areas, according to a press release from Clark County. Last year, fireworks could be discharged as early as June 28 in certain areas.
“This update makes the allowable time for fireworks discharge consistent for all county residents in the unincorporated area,” Clark County Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway said.
People who use fireworks illegally, which includes curfew or device-type violations, are subject to a $500 fine for first-time offenders, and a $1,000 fine for subsequent infractions.
The county urges caution when disposing of fireworks, which contain heavy metals and other chemicals that can cause environmental damage by washing into storm drains. To avoid violating state and county littering laws, residents are advised to sweep up and dispose of firework debris after use and not light them near waterways.
Additionally, the county suggests placing used fireworks in a bucket of water overnight before throwing them in a garbage can — rather than a recycling bin — and having a water hose ready when lighting them. If fireworks are lit but don’t explode, users should wait at least 15 minutes before approaching and putting them in water. Use should be limited to open areas and away from structures or vegetation.
Unused fireworks should not be placed in garbage cans or taken to transfer stations due to explosion risks. Some fire and police stations accept unused fireworks between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Residents are asked to hand them to staff rather than leaving them outside stations or inside lobbies.
Illegal fireworks use can be reported to 311, or if there’s an ongoing emergency call 911.
Internet fireworks sales are subject to different regulations, according to the state fire marshal’s office. If fireworks are bought online, they may only be delivered to the buyer at a licensed consumer fireworks retail sales facility during the legally authorized time periods, and the purchase or receipt must come through a state-licensed retailer or wholesaler. Advertisements must contain the license number and expiration date of the licensee.
More information can be found by contacting the state fire marshal’s office at 360-596-3929 or online at www.wsp.wa.gov/fireworks/.
Sales and use of fireworks in Vancouver is banned; this will be the third Fourth of July since the ban has been in effect.
Other cities such as Battle Ground, Camas and Washougal have changed their laws for this year.
In Battle Ground, fireworks use has been restricted from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to midnight Thursday, according to a news release from the city. Sales are allowed 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fireworks are not allowed in city parks or schools.
In Camas and Washougal, fireworks can only be used on Thursday and must fall under the definition of “safe and sane,” meaning they aren’t projectile or explosive, according to a Camas-Washougal Fire Department news release. Penalties start at $250 for the first offense, $500 for a second, $750 for a third and $1,000 for each subsequent violation in a three-year period. Fireworks stands in both cities will be open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and in Camas, they will also be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 5.
‘Set the record straight’
Residents who find the various laws confusing may not be alone. Robert Holmes, operations manager at TNT Fireworks Warehouse in Hazel Dell, said most people he’s spoken with believe they’re illegal in all areas of the county.
“That’s why we’re trying to set the record straight,” Holmes said. “The city and the county limits, that’s a pretty fine line there.”
The county has a chart, as well as an interactive online map of the various municipal and county fireworks laws, which can be found at www.clark.wa.gov/community-development/fireworks. Fireworks laws can also be found on city government websites.
Despite the regulations, business at the TNT warehouse should be fine, Holmes said.
“That’s the kind of thing where the bad acts of one person affect everybody,” he said. “We have a number of return customers that they’re just die-hard customers. I’m not too worried about it.”
Most concerning, Holmes said, is the gradual loss of an annual holiday tradition.
“Over the years, it’s slowly declined and declined and declined,” Holmes said. “This is the American holiday. This is when we celebrate who we are. It’s just sad to see it taken away like this.”