COVID-19 has caused Fourth of July events to go bust this year, meaning more personal fireworks could go boom.
Fireworks sales begin Sunday in unincorporated areas of Clark County. Jurisdictions within the county have differing rules around pyrotechnics.
Nationally, fireworks dealers have reported an explosion in sales with community events canceled.
“The sales are on fire. It’s not pretty good. It’s on fire,” said Beau Leach, general manager of TNT Fireworks Warehouse in Hazel Dell.
Leach said he expects similar results locally.
“People are ready to celebrate some freedom,” Leach said. “And if you can do it safely, that’s what we’re about.”
But due to state mandates to curb the spread of the virus, sites that sell fireworks will look different this year.
The warehouse in Hazel Dell, for instance, has altered the layout of its large tent to encourage social distancing. It will also have other features, including about 3,500 masks for customers and employees, and disinfecting stations.
However, in order to encourage distancing, the warehouse will not have its typical bounce house or complimentary soda concession trailer.
“We found ways around it within the rules and regulations to keep everybody safe,” Operations Manager Robert Holmes said. “It’s the same aspects of what we do every year. It’s just a little more rigorous.”
As sales have skyrocketed, complaints have risen, as well, a trend that governments in Clark County are attempting to mitigate.
Those who use them illegally, including curfew or device-type violations, could face fines starting at $500 for the first offense.
Use, possession or sale of fireworks is banned in Vancouver. The Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office will have extra officers for enforcement on the Fourth of July.
“Public safety agencies spend an extraordinary amount of resources responding to fireworks-related incidents, which can have a negative effect on the response time for other life-threatening emergency calls for service,” Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli said.
Illegal fireworks include firecrackers, salutes, chasers, skyrockets, bottle rockets, M-80s, M-1000s and homemade devices.
Fireworks can contain heavy metals and other chemicals that can cause environmental damage when washed into storm drains. Those hoping to avoid littering violations can sweep up and dispose of firework debris and avoid lighting them near waterways.
Local fire officials advise fireworks users to have water hoses ready when lighting. If fireworks light but don’t explode, users are advised to wait at least 15 minutes before approaching and placing them in water.
Residents should place used fireworks in buckets of water overnight before throwing them in garbage cans — rather than recycling bins. Fireworks are not advised near structures or vegetation.
“Improper use of fireworks can lead to unintended injuries and structure or grass fires,” Battle Ground Fire Marshal Chris Drone said. “Being prepared, safe and responsible is key to a fun and worry-free Fourth of July celebration.”
Illegal fireworks use can be reported by dialing 311 or, if there’s an ongoing emergency, 911.
Additional information, including an interactive map and online chart of fireworks rules in specific areas, can be found at www.clark.wa.gov/community-development/fireworks.