Countywide vote on fireworks could go to November ballot

EVERETT — An upcoming hearing could determine whether Snohomish County voters get to weigh in on an advisory fireworks ban in November.

Or, things could fizzle out.

The County Council is set to hear testimony and could vote at a public meeting at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Council Chairman Terry Ryan of Mill Creek said he drafted the advisory measure prohibiting the use, sale or possession of fireworks as a response to one of the most common concerns he’s heard during his two and a half years on the council. If voters favor a ban, council members could enact one. If not, they could move on.

Some of Ryan’s colleagues agree it’s a good conversation to have. They aren’t sold on the approach.

For Councilman Hans Dunshee of Snohomish, one of the sticking points is that the ballot would go to all voters in the county, even though the county only has jurisdiction over unincorporated areas. He remains undecided.

“I’ve got a little concern that it’s folks in the cities voting on a proposal that doesn’t affect them,” Dunshee said. “Nothing against them, but it’s tough to look at the results. You can do it precinct by precinct. Still, those who oppose fireworks will probably look at the end result and make what they want of it and folks who are in favor of fireworks will probably do the same.”

The council decided in June to grant the county fire marshal the power to enact an emergency fireworks ban in times of extreme drought.

Separately, Dunshee is backing an ordinance to let people in unincorporated areas create neighborhood-specific fireworks bans by petition. The idea, modeled after the county’s no-shooting zones, is set for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 17.

The advisory ban would be the third potential fireworks restriction to come up this summer. Councilman Brian Sullivan of Everett says that is at lot to consider in such a short time.

“Two of them are very strong steps toward the ban, but still allow limited fireworks use,” Sullivan said. “Going this third step — it’s heavy-handed in one year. But nonetheless, it doesn’t preclude us from having the public hearing and hearing people out.”

He said he’d keep an open mind.

If a ban were to take effect, professional pyrotechnic displays still would be allowed with permits.

When it comes to fireworks, council members find themselves caught between dueling lobbying efforts of firefighters and fireworks vendors.

The vendors reason that restrictions only push people to buy more powerful and potentially dangerous fireworks from places such as Boom City on the Tulalip reservation, which aren’t subject to state fireworks laws.

Capt. Mike Fitzgerald, fire marshal for fire districts 3 and 7, said two injuries in the Clearview area over the recent July 4 holiday involved legal fireworks. In one case, a man suffered an eye injury; in the other, a teenager blew open his leg.

“The two injuries that we experienced over the holiday were state legal fireworks,” Fitzgerald said. “Eye injuries are a common occurrence, even with state legal fireworks.”

Fitzgerald said he doubts you could find any fire departments that don’t support more fireworks restrictions.

“Certainly, if we can remove explosives that people ignite for amusement, that’s going to have a positive impact on public safety,” he said.

Snohomish County only allows people to light off fireworks on July 4. As of next year, consumer fireworks bans are in effect or set to take effect soon in Brier, Edmonds, Everett, Gold Bar, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo and Woodway.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

If you go

The Snohomish County Council has scheduled a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Monday to discuss putting a fireworks ban to an advisory vote on Nov. 8. The prohibition would apply to unincorporated areas, but would appear on all ballots in the county. The hearing is to take place in county council chambers on the eighth floor of the Robert Drewel Building on 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett.

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