Code enforcement officers from the Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office issued fewer tickets for lighting fireworks within the city limits over this year’s Independence Day weekend compared with the past couple of years.
From July 1 to 5, the officers issued 45 citations, according to the fire marshal’s office. Thirty-three of them were issued July 4, eight were issued the day prior to the holiday, and each day leading up to and following the holiday saw only single tickets issued.
Fireworks patrol officers also made 39 confiscations, the fire marshal’s office said.
Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli noted three incidents of property damage due to fireworks.
The most significant was a fire that occurred at 12:45 a.m. Sunday at 3203 Watson Ave., a single-story duplex in Rose Village. Two engines and two ladder trucks from Vancouver Fire Department were assisted by one engine from Clark County Fire District 6.
When fire crews arrived, they found the fire on the exterior of the duplex had been extinguished with a garden hose. Fire had spread into the attic, however.
Crews were on the scene for about 90 minutes before the attic fire and possible hot spots were investigated and extinguished. No injuries were reported, but four residents were displaced.
Scarpelli said the blaze was started with discarded hot fireworks. It caused an estimated $31,600 in damage, she said.
A portable toilet at Northeast 23rd Street and 117th Avenue was damaged by fireworks on July 4 around 10:45 p.m. And a trash bin fire on the 300 block of Southeast 118th Street was ignited by improperly discarded fireworks, the fire marshal said.
Vancouver banned fireworks in 2016. The fine for lighting fireworks within city limits is $500 for the first offense.
Last year, Scarpelli reported, her office issued 64 tickets. In 2018, they clocked 104 violations on the holiday.
The fire marshal had said she was unsure how this year’s celebrations would play out. Usually, Vancouver residents recognize the holiday by gathering at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and watching the annual fireworks extravaganza, an event that once drew 60,000 people. This year, the show was canceled due to concerns about large crowds spreading COVID-19.
Vancouver Police Sgt. Kathy McNicholas said officers reported no significant calls for service involving fireworks over the weekend. The officers relayed that it seemed “quiet and uneventful” for the Fourth, McNicholas said. However, Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency dispatch logs show more than 1,000 noise complaint calls related to fireworks.
The fireworks ban can be difficult to enforce, Scarpelli said. There are patrols out every night during the firework season, but even with power in numbers, complaints about lighting off illicit fireworks require quick responses. The act of lighting fireworks may last seconds, so it’s difficult for officers to catch people in the act.
It’s difficult to say whether there were more or fewer people doing so this year due, in part, to fewer staff, who were on unpaid furloughs due to the impacts of COVID-19.