By Steve Guntli
With Whatcom County and Washington state in the grips of a heat wave, state and county officials are urging extreme caution when using fireworks.
Due to the high risk of fires statewide, Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in Washington. The governor’s office and the fire marshal are encouraging people to not use fireworks purchased privately and only attend public fireworks displays.
Washington state law allows fireworks to be discharged from June 28 to July 5, but many jurisdictions in the county are cutting back on those days to prevent wildfires.
On June 23, Whatcom County Council unanimously approved a measure to
reduce the days that fireworks can be discharged. The new regulations, which go into effect next year, would make the county one of five local jurisdictions to limit the use of fireworks beyond what the state allows.
Blaine limits fireworks use to July 1–5, to take July 1, Canada Day, into account. Bellingham has had an in-city ban on fireworks in place since last year and Ferndale will reduce the allowable days to July 4 and December 31 starting in 2016.
On June 23, citing concerns over the hot, dry conditions, Everson City Council opted to limit their fireworks days this year to July 3–5.
Additionally, it is only legal to buy or sell fireworks within Blaine city limits from 9 a.m. on July 1 to 9 p.m. on July 4.
According to the county fire marshal’s office, fireworks lead to an average of four to six brush fires every year. This Fourth of July weekend is predicted to be particularly hot and dry, with high temperatures around the county expected to rise into the high 80s, according to the National Weather Service.
On June 29, the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office increased the countywide burn ban to stage 2, prohibiting all open fires, including yard debris fires, land clearing and recreational fires. Barbeques are still allowed under the burn ban, but extreme caution is requested for disposing any charcoal or ashes.
The current fireworks regulations in unincorporated Whatcom County are in line with the state mandate. Firework use is limited to the following times:
June 28: noon–11 p.m.
June 29–July 3: 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
July 4: 9 a.m.–midnight
July 5: 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
Fireworks purchased from stands in unincorporated Whatcom County have been inspected by the fire marshal and pass state requirements. However, some fireworks purchased on native reservations are only legal to fire on native land. Firecrackers, bottle rockets, mortar shells and any type of missile or firework with sticks or fins are prohibited off the reservation. Some explosive devices, such as M-80s, M-100s, tennis ball bombs and pipe bombs are illegal everywhere.
Sky lanterns, though not considered fireworks, are illegal to light and release. Sky lanterns contain an open flame and their paths are not controllable. Releasing sky lanterns could result in a criminal charge for violation of the state and county fire codes, according to the fire marshal’s office.
Possession of illegal fireworks is considered a criminal offense, and anyone who starts a fire from either legal or illegal fireworks will be held responsible.
For more information, visit the fire marshal’s website at www.co.whatcom/wa/us/381/Fire-Marshal.
Blaine’s Old Fashion Fourth of July fireworks display will begin at 10:15 p.m. in Marine Park. For more information on the festivities, visit blainechamber.com.