EVERETT — Fire authorities have drafted a petition to ban consumer fireworks in parts of south Snohomish County where they aren’t already illegal.
Commissioners for South County Fire approved the petition last week. They sent the request to the Snohomish County Council, which has the authority to ban the sale and use of fireworks outside city limits.
The proposed no-fireworks area would cover huge swathes of suburbia, specifically the unincorporated areas around Everett, Lynnwood and other south county cities.
“The area we represent in south Snohomish County is a very suburban and urbanizing area,” said Commissioner Jim Kenny, board chairman for South County Fire. “That makes it very challenging and very dangerous to use fireworks amongst so many homes and so many people.”
Fire officials plan to testify about the proposal at the County Council meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. June 26. The council could schedule a hearing at a later date to consider the request, with input from all sides of the issue.
If a ban were to pass, state law requires a year delay before it takes effect. That means no county restriction would affect July 4 activities until at least 2021.
For many years, fire officials have gone to the county’s elected leaders, urging them to ban consumer fireworks in unincorporated areas — so far without luck.
They have drawn support from homeowners who complain about frightened pets and others who have suffered property damage or injuries. Some military veterans and others with post-traumatic stress disorder also have endorsed fireworks restrictions.
South County Fire officials have tallied up about $3.7 million in fireworks-related property damage since 2005, and several serious injuries to eyes, hands and arms, among other body parts.
“The issue for us is that this happens every year,” Kenny said. “And if it’s predictable, it’s preventable. This is one way of preventing those types of injuries.”
Counter-arguments have come from people who operate fireworks stands, often for charity, and people who enjoy fireworks as part of traditional Fourth of July celebrations with friends and family. They note that many of the fireworks that cause the most trouble, including firecrackers and bottle rockets, are already illegal under state law.
“The ban in the past would have been countywide,” Kenny said. “This would be only for South County Fire. This would not affect north Snohomish County or east Snohomish County.”
Fire authorities have talked to the sheriff’s office about how to enforce the restriction.
South County Fire came into existence in 2017 when Fire District 1 merged with the Lynnwood Fire Department.
Lynnwood already bans fireworks. The fire authority contracts for service with the cities of Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Brier, which also have bans in place. All told, some 250,000 people live in its service area. Much of the territory lies outside of city limits but is densely populated.
If passed, the restriction would include the Eastmont and Mariner areas of unincorporated Everett, plus the Silver Firs development east of Mill Creek and some places near Silver Lake. It would cover the Lynnwood-area neighborhoods of Lake Serene, Lake Stickney, Martha Lake and Meadowdale, as well as Picnic Point south of Mukilteo. The Esperance enclave that’s surrounded by Edmonds would be affected, as would the Hilltop area between Lynnwood and Bothell.
As is, county code only allows people to set off fireworks in unincorporated areas for 15 hours every year, on July 4 between 9 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.
The County Council has tabled a proposal from last year that would have prohibited fireworks in future annexation areas for cities that have bans in place. Despite balking at more aggressive fireworks policies, councilmembers have adopted some recent restrictions.
In 2016, they granted the county fire marshal the power to declare an emergency fireworks ban during times of extreme drought. The same year, the council passed an ordinance that lets voters petition for neighborhood-specific fireworks bans, modeled on the county’s no-shooting zones. To succeed, a petition must attract support from at least 51 percent of registered voters in a given area. The area must include 50 or more single-family homes or cover at least one square mile.
As of last week, county officials said they had yet to receive a single petition for a neighborhood-specific no-fireworks zone.
The ordinance contained a provision allowing fire districts or fire authorities, rather than people living in the area, to submit a request. South County Fire is citing that provision.
For more information about fireworks laws in Washington, visit www.wsp.wa.gov/fireworks.