PENINSULA — The Fourth of July came and went without much trouble this year, but the crowds left smoldering fire pits and tons of trash along Long Beach Peninsula beaches.
About 500 people pitched in during the annual July 5 cleanup. A group of volunteers known as the GrassRoots Garbage Gang organized the effort to pick up trash along beaches from Oysterville to about a mile north of the Bolstad approach.
The group works with firefighters, law enforcement officers and officials from city, county and state agencies to provide information about how to have a safe holiday and encourages people to haul their trash off the beach.
“The cleanup really depends on people from the community coming out to help,” said Shelly Pollock, a longtime volunteer organizer from Ocean Park. “Every year we get a little better.”
This year, Russ Lewis, also of Ocean Park, went out early in the morning on July 5 to mark potential hazards from fires that had not been put out properly. A crew from Pacific County Fire District 1 extinguished the 70 smoldering sites he marked and four others.
“Many were still hot enough to boil water or turn it into steam,” Chief Jacob Brundage said. “You wouldn’t know they were still burning until you put your hand down or stepped on them.”
His crew used about 1,200 gallons of water and filled a 55-gallon drum with debris as they put out fires and cleaned pits along the shore.
The district responded to two July 4 fires that were related to fireworks, Brundage said. Both had been put out by the time firefighters arrived. A woman was taken to the hospital with a fireworks-related injury.
“The Fourth was pretty mellow this year,” Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright said of the Tuesday holiday.
City and county law enforcement and fire agencies took 198 calls on July 4, Sheriff Scott Johnson said. That’s down from about 240 in 2016.
“There was no shortage of calls,” Johnson said. “But it was an improvement.”
Washington State Patrol troopers responded to three July 4 car accidents and cited four people for driving under the influence in Pacific County, Sgt. Brad Moon said.
Dozens of officers with State Parks and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife handled crowds on the beach so local law enforcement could cover the rest of the county. Without help, the holiday would have been overwhelming, Moon said.
The GrassRoots Garbage Gang worked with other groups to put out a flier with information aimed at encouraging those celebrating on the beach to be safe, follow the rules and clean up after themselves.
“Everyone doing their little part helps it all come together,” Pollock said. “We’re getting more and more people taking care of their own space.… We’re not nearly where we need to be but we’re improving.”
The community group Not a Ban, a Better Plan is conducting a survey of residents and guests to see how they think this July 4 went and what further improvements might be needed. Take the survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFQQJFF. In addition, the Chinook Observer will publish the survey next week.