Illegal fireworks problem improves

By CATHY LOGG

Herald Writer

One fireworks stand was shut down for selling illegal items to undercover government officials over the Fourth of July, but the problem is getting better.

"We found that things were significantly better than they were last year," Deborah M. Autor, a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., said Thursday.

She said a cooperative effort led to the improvement.

"I would credit the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as local and tribal officials, for their effective efforts."

Federal agents assisted the safety commission by making purchases of illegal fireworks in Snohomish County. At least one fireworks stand on the Tulalip Reservation was shut down.

Autor was assigned to work with local officials to address the problem of illegal fireworks, said Art Ahrens, explosives and arson supervisor at the bureau’s office in Seattle. Autor’s office handles illegal fireworks and explosives cases from across the country.

"One of the reasons that my office dedicates ourselves to these cases is there was a teen-ager killed in Wisconsin by one of these devices," Autor said.

The 17-year-old boy died in July 1998 when he threw a M-1000, also known as a quarter stick, into a mailbox. Shrapnel severed an artery, and he bled to death, she said.

Ahrens and Autor declined to say how many purchases of illegal fireworks were made in Snohomish County. Autor also declined to say whether any charges were pending.

Staff at Providence Everett Medical Center’s Colby Campus treated three fireworks injuries on July 4 and 5, said Teresa McGovern, a hospital spokeswoman.

Two people suffered minor burns to their extremities, and one man suffered an eye injury after a mortar went off in his hands, she said. All three were treated and released.

Federal charges were filed against one individual Snohomish County man relating to an alleged sale of an explosive over New Year’s, Autor said. He made an initial appearance last week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, she said. His trial on two misdemeanors is scheduled Sept. 5.

Federal authorities allege that the man sold an M-1000 to an undercover agent. If convicted, he would face a maximum penalty of about 15 months in prison.

"The flash-powder devices that have been sold in the past in Snohomish County are highly dangerous devices, and we take this matter very seriously," Autor said.

You can call Herald Writer Cathy Logg at 425-339-3437or send e-mail to

logg@heraldnet.com.

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