Fireworks flip-flop unlikely after survey

OBSERVER FILE PHOTODays and nights of fireworks before and after July 4 has some Peninsula residents asking for restrictions, while other remain commited to the status quo.

PENINSULA — A recent survey that showed 80 percent support for changing the rules for Fourth of July fireworks hasn’t swayed elected leaders, at least not for now.

Almost 600 people answered an informal questionnaire by the Not a Ban, a Better Plan group between July 13 to Aug. 25. Problems during Independence Day celebrations in 2015 and the mess left behind along Peninsula beaches prompted the now five-member group to start its work.

Two years later, survey results show more than half of those who responded, 53 percent, favor allowing fireworks on fewer days around the July 4 holiday. About a quarter, 27 percent, want to ban them entirely.

On the Peninsula, people can light fireworks on all eight days allowed by the state, from June 28 to July 5.

Pacific County leaders have considered cutting the number of days but are not planning to take any action, Commissioner Frank Wolfe said.

Many complaints about fireworks involve violations of rules that are already in place. So, Wolfe said, making more restrictive laws for selling and lighting off fireworks might not do much to improve the situation.

“Locally sold, safe and sane fireworks are generally not the problem,” he wrote in a Sept. 26 email to the Observer. “Most complaints involve fireworks that loft explosive projectiles or detonate with loud bangs. Most of these are not sold on the Peninsula and may not be legal.”

However, Wolfe continued, the more dangerous fireworks are available elsewhere so limiting access to “safe” ones could backfire. He pointed out that a number of survey-takers suggested stricter enforcement of current rules.

Wolfe said the three county commissioners want to keep laws for fireworks consistent across the Peninsula, in part, because it makes them easier to understand and enforce. If the county changes the days on which people are allowed light them in unincorporated areas, the cities of Long Beach and Ilwaco would have follow suit to keep rules the same.

“While I respect what the Better Plan folks are doing and trying to accomplish, this is not a simple problem and it probably doesn’t have a simple solution,” Wolfe wrote in a Sept. 26 email to the Observer. “Laws are only as good as our ability to enforce them.” Wolfe said it’s unclear whether State Parks officers would help make sure local rules were followed if they were different than state law.

The two Peninsula cities have considered restrictions for fireworks too.

Survey-takers in Long Beach favored limiting or banning them by 76.8 percent, results show.

Mayor Jerry Phillips said some City Council members want to cut a couple days from the eight allowed by the state but the majority does not. Having different rules for different areas would make them harder to enforce, he said.

The council is expected to have a meeting about fireworks after new members are elected in November.

Survey-takers in Ilwaco support 76.7 percent support for limiting or banning fireworks. Mayor Mike Cassinelli said the city plans to stay in line with Long Beach and unincorporated Pacific County when deciding whether to change rules for Fourth of July celebrations within its limits.

“Right now we are in a wait and see mode,” he said.

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