PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners are again discussing a fireworks ordinance and agreed Monday that the earliest new fireworks rules could take effect is 2021.
State law says fireworks regulations take effect one year after they are passed and commissioners said during their work session Monday they are not interested in rushing to pass an ordinance before July 4 this year.
“We’re not going to try to jam this in prior to Independence Day,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said.
“I feel like that’s not realistic unless we drop other stuff. I’d rather work through it and do it right.”
Commissioners said last year they were interested in further study and hearings when a fireworks ordinance was first proposed.
Commissioners have been discussing different ways to implement a fireworks ordinance in an effort to strike a compromise between people who strongly feel consumer fireworks are a part of Independence Day and others who feel fireworks pose too much of a fire risk.
Ozias said the discussion last year made it clear that about half of county residents want fireworks and half do not.
“It’s something our citizens are highly passionate about,” Ozias said.
The cities of Port Angeles and Sequim in Clallam County and Port Townsend in Jefferson County have already banned fireworks.
Commissioners are considering whether the ordinance should allow neighborhoods to petition to become no-fireworks discharge zones, modeled after laws that allow for the creation of no-firearms discharge zones.
They also are looking at whether the fire marshal should have the authority to prohibit fireworks based on the risk of fire.
Commissioner Bill Peach suggested Monday that the county consider using the Department of Natural Resources’ Industrial Fire Precaution Levels in that process.
He suggested a Level 4 shutdown, the highest level, could be cause to prohibit fireworks.
“DNR has access to a lot of excellent information,” Peach said. “For us to operate at a different level than a Level 4 shutdown would invite a lot of complaints.
“I recommend we take a hard look at the science that drives DNR’s decision to go to Level 4.”
Activated when needed during the summer fire season, Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL) are an activity closure system to reduce wildfire risk. By law, it applies to forestry workers and other industrial forest users on 13 million acres of unimproved private and state forestland protected by the agency, according to the DNR website, www.dnr.wa.gov/ifpl.
The county is also looking at how Kittitas County handles fireworks.
Kittitas County approved an ordinance in 2016 that allows the fire marshal to ban fireworks a week before the Fourth of July if there is significant fire danger.
Officials in Kittitas County look at the burning index, fuel moisture and energy release thresholds to make the decision and allow the fire marshal to ban fireworks in areas of the county that pose the highest risk of fire.
Commissioner Randy Johnson said he would like to talk with officials from the county’s fire districts before implementing a new policy.
The commissioners are also considering whether to further restrict the times and days fireworks can be used. Under state law, fireworks can be discharged June 28 to July 5 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but counties are allowed to further restrict times and days.
For example, Douglas County only allows fireworks to be discharged Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
Ozias said the county has heard from the Sheriff’s Office that certain provisions could be difficult or impossible to enforce if implemented.
“We should try to take enforcement into account and build an ordinance that has a reasonable chance of being enforceable,” Ozias said. “But I don’t think enforcement challenges would be enough to say we just shouldn’t do something.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].