PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Board of Commissioners is considering banning consumer fireworks countywide but first wants input from local tribes and the public.
Commissioner Mark Ozias said during a work session Monday that after hearing from a number of people who live in unincorporated Clallam County who are concerned about the use of fireworks, he wanted to see how the other commissioners felt.
Ozias said the people who contacted him were livestock owners who are concerned about the effect fireworks have on their animals.
He said he wanted to look at how other jurisdictions have addressed fireworks and see what works best for Clallam County. Some jurisdictions don’t address fireworks while some have stricter regulations or just ban them outright.
“Counties across Washington are all over the board,” he said.
Commissioner Bill Peach quickly said the county should first consult with local tribes because of the “serious money” tribal members make at their fireworks stands.
“To tell them that they are not going to do that without us first having a good conversation, I think that’s fraught with disaster,” Peach said.
It’s a sentiment the three commissioners agreed on. Ozias, Peach and Commissioner Randy Johnson each said the first step should be checking with tribes and working on community outreach.
They said they are not in a hurry to pass a ban, meaning it could take more than two years before a ban would take effect.
Under state law fireworks bans only go into effect one year after they are approved and commissioners said they wouldn’t push a ban through before July 4 celebrations this year.
“I’m not interested in trying to rush this through,” Ozias said. “It’s an issue I know a lot of people in the community care about.”
If Clallam County approves a fireworks ban, it would join the ranks of Port Townsend, Sequim and Port Angeles, which have also banned fireworks.
Sequim residents showed that they favored banning fireworks in an advisory vote in 2016. The city council then voted Nov. 28, 2016, to prohibit discharging fireworks, which starts July of this year.
Sequim’s ban still allows the sale of legal fireworks at up to four licensed retailer booths.
The city of Port Angeles is now in its third year without consumer fireworks.
Fireworks have been banned within Port Townsend since 2002.
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict told commissioners that current restrictions on fireworks, which allow the use of consumer fireworks during certain times leading up to the night of July 4, are difficult to enforce.
“The problem from an enforcement perspective is it’s hard to tell the legal ones from the illegal ones, particularly from a distance,” Benedict said. “The fact is, we don’t do a very good job of enforcing illegal fireworks unless they cause a fire.”
He said people often tell deputies they were unaware that the fireworks they purchased were actually illegal.
“They’ll say I just bought them, how can they not be legal?” he said.
Benedict told commissioners that an absolute ban would be the easiest to enforce. Benedict said there are professional fireworks displays that people can watch each year and that he doesn’t see the need for fireworks.
“I’m probably going to irritate a number of residents in the county, [but] I don’t see the connection between lighting stuff that explodes and causes fires as celebrating July Fourth,” he said. “I think professional displays are good. They are tastefully done, are artful and have an abundance of precautions that are taken so that there is not damage.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].