Op-ed | Citizens Split on Fireworks Ban, Council Vote Will Leave Many in Disagreement

The personal use of fireworks has been a frequent topic of conversation for the Snoqualmie City Council. For the past seven months the Public Safety Committee has been discussing updates to the current fireworks ordinance, and public input is an important part of the process.  Since last year’s Independence Day house fire, Snoqualmie residents presented public comments at several City Council and Public Safety Committee meetings.

In addition, Mayor Larson and city staff (including fire and police chiefs) presented potential options fireworks-noregarding fireworks.  These options ran the full spectrum from an “all-out ban” of all fireworks to “no change.”  My priorities throughout this process were to maintain the spirit of community traditions and celebrations on the Fourth of July, while also balancing safety, education, and enforcement.  I felt a total ban was too restrictive, while doing nothing was not an option.

Throughout this process we identified ways our community could safely continue celebrating Independence Day.  We also identified a more realistic way to enforce the ordinance.  For example, under the existing ordinance, when an aerial firework is discharged, it is difficult for law enforcement to respond and identify if the aerial firework is legal or illegal.  The proposed amended ordinance makes it easier to enforce, since all aerial fireworks (except for permitted, professional displays) will be off limits.  To fill the absence of personal aerial fireworks, which many of our residents enjoy, it was proposed to have a professional community-wide fireworks show.

A recent citywide live telephone survey of 300 Snoqualmie residents resulted in an even division between those favoring a ban and those opposing a ban.  When residents’ views are evenly split on if they would favor or oppose a ban on fireworks, I acknowledge some residents will feel we did too much, while others will feel we did not do enough.  I also understand there is not one magic solution that will make everyone happy and family fireworks are a long-held tradition.

The compromise that is presented in the proposed amended fireworks ordinance was drafted after careful consideration and combines several of the options that were discussed during the past several months.  The proposed ordinance does the following:

  • Provides for continued use of ground fireworks. (Examples are certain cones and fountains, sparklers, wheels, smoke and snake items, strobes, and ground spinners.)
  • Makes it illegal to discharge aerial fireworks (Examples are rockets, missiles, mortars, shells, aerial cakes, and flying spinners. Professional aerial firework shows are allowed.)
  • Provides for an opportunity to have a professional community-wide aerial fireworks display.
  • Increases fines and penalties for illegal use.
  • Promotes more education for fireworks safety.
  • Requires more safety measures when discharging fireworks.
  • Provides an opportunity for service organizations, like the Kiwanis, to continue selling fireworks as a fundraiser.

I am a proponent of safe and responsible use of fireworks; in several ways we are returning to the nostalgic use of fireworks that many of us remember from our childhood.

The proposed amended fireworks ordinance is scheduled to be acted upon during the February 9, 2015 City Council meeting at City Hall.  I encourage residents to continue providing input on this issue and to attend this City Council meeting.

It is also important to point out that if the City Council makes changes to the fireworks ordinance, these changes will not go into effect until 2016, per applicable state laws.

Heather Munden

Snoqualmie City Council, Position No. 5

Chair, Public Safety Committee

Comments

  1. Hugh johnson says

    Why not publish the exact proposal? All of these things changes could be fine, or they could be wrong. Without the details it is impossible to make an informed decision.

  2. These are explosives! Plain and simple. In the wrong hand they can damage and hurt. Just outlaw them. If you want to play you can go somewhere else.

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