Update: In a 5-4 vote the King County Council voted to ban the retail sale and use of fireworks in unincorporated King County. The ban will go into effect in 2022. Penalties of up to $250 for violating the law will go into effect after the first year.
Last Fourth of July, a 70-year-old man died in a house fire in White Center. Another home caught fire in Renton. Fireworks caused both incidents. Elsewhere around the state and across the West, numerous wildfires have been triggered by fireworks, including some that left people dead or injured and caused millions of dollars in damage and costs to contain them. In the eyes of many leaders, fireworks present a public safety and health hazard.
To that end, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott introduced legislation that would ban fireworks in unincorporated King County.
“The tragic death last 4th of July in White Center demonstrates the true danger to public health posed by fireworks,” McDermott said. “While I understand that fireworks are a time-honored tradition in our country, we must recognize that unincorporated King County remains as one of the last jurisdictions in our region where you can legally purchase and discharge fireworks without a permit. We must do everything we can to protect our residents from further human tragedies, as well protect our natural areas from the increased risk of wildfire due to climate change.”
Fireworks are already banned in 25 other jurisdictions in King County, and many types of fireworks are illegal outside of tribal lands. But in unincorporated King County, restrictions are limited, and enforcement is often challenging when law enforcement and fire officials must review multiple details to determine a particular firework’s place in the law. McDermott’s proposal would make enforcement clear: If it’s a firework – not a novelty or trick device – it would not be legal. This would apply to all fireworks, including sparklers and other “safe and sane” fireworks.
Says Mitzi Johanknecht – King County Sheriff, “With our dense population, and increasingly dry summers, this legislation is a necessary step for public safety. While we recognize the importance of celebrating our nation’s independence, protecting life and property is paramount. We encourage our residents to celebrate at safe, permitted fireworks displays.”
Working with the Executive and the Department of Local Services, McDermott’s legislation would not ban properly permitted fireworks displays nor impact fireworks on tribal trust lands.
If approved, state law requires a one-year waiting period before the ban could take effect, during which time the County would undertake an educational campaign about the new law.
A link to the proposed legislation: https://mkcclegisearch.kingcounty.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4760237&GUID=24C30407-F35A-41D2-8B42-5037E51AA5A3&Options=Advanced&Search&fbclid=IwAR3iutnHJmKRUOZzkl9Bca94RHNz021wdtnGR6P41ERLhFUKRvDHAGI_aek
You can tune in to the council meeting live, today April 27th, at 1 pm. It will be broadcast on KCTV (Channel 22) or by streaming on your computer at the following link: https://livestream.com/accounts/15175343/events/4485487.
Click this link to find out how to call into the meeting to give public comment over the phone: https://kingcounty.gov/council/committees/full_council.aspx.