Clallam commissioners disagree on fireworks

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners are closer to developing a fireworks ordinance, but could not agree this week on just how restrictive the ordinance should be.

During a work session Monday, Commissioners Mark Ozias and Randy Johnson suggested the ordinance should limit the discharge of consumer fireworks to just July 4, while Commissioner Bill Peach wanted instead to keep fireworks legal but give neighborhoods in the West End district an opportunity to create “no fireworks” zones.

The commissioners have been discussing a fireworks ordinance since early 2018 and have sought to strike a compromise between the people who want fireworks banned and the people who want to continue to be able to celebrate Independence Day by using fireworks.

The cities of Sequim, Port Angeles and Port Townsend have banned fireworks.

During the meeting, a woman provided the commissioners with several bags of firework debris she said landed on her lot on the Fourth of July.

Commissioners did all agree that the county should have the ability to ban fireworks when the Department of Natural Resources says there is “high” fire danger.

A fireworks ordinance would take effect one year after it is approved by the Board of County Commissioners.

“When we took all the testimony at our public hearing, there was a lot of desire to maintain the ability for citizens to use fireworks during the Independence Day holiday,” Ozias said. “I didn’t hear anyone speak to the New Year’s holiday, so I would agree … it would make sense to preserve that related to Independence Day.”

Peach expressed concern about limiting the discharge of fireworks to just Fourth of July, when many families get together on the weekend before or after the holiday.

“I haven’t had a good solution presented to me that would allow for a person to enjoy their fireworks on the Fourth of July and when their family members get together,” Peach said.

Johnson said that he feels the ordinance needs to be simple.

Ozias suggested the ordinance could limit the discharge of fireworks to 9 a.m. to midnight July 4, which would make enforcement easier and be easy to understand.

“It would strike a balance between trying to be responsive to all the concerns we’ve had related to fireworks and also allow for the celebration of Independence Day in a traditional fashion,” Ozias said. “Not thinking about precluding fireworks in any geographic districts, just limiting to when people said they want to use them.”

Peach said that idea wouldn’t work.

Peach said he has three tribes in his district and income from fireworks sales is important to them.

Also, he said, “I suspect if you said only one day, there will be lots of days that people use fireworks. What should we do about that in an area where law enforcement on the West End per capita is remote.”

Peach said he “just doesn’t accept” concerns over animals to be a strong enough reason to limit fireworks to one day.

“Well, I don’t agree with you, and that’s not unusual,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he received many comments from people who said their main concern is their animals, but that they could handle one day of fireworks.

“People like my wife who have horses running around, it’s always going to be an issue,” Johnson said.

Peach suggested allowing neighborhoods to ban fireworks instead of limiting days. He said a neighborhood fireworks ban should have a certain number of years before it sunsets.

Johnson said he is concerned about allowing citizens to draw the boundary lines, suggesting the lines should already be defined.

Ozias said he is concerned that having small areas that ban fireworks would be difficult for the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to enforce.

It might also cause people to use fireworks somewhere else, he said.

Ozias questioned whether the county could designate fireworks discharge zones, but Fire Marshal Annette Warren cautioned against creating concentrations of people who are all using explosives.

“It is inevitable there will be times we don’t agree and we see things differently,” Ozias said. “We might not get to the point we come to a solution everyone thinks is perfect, but it’s important to exhaust all of our creative energy to get there.”

Commissioners expect to take up the discussion again later this month, Ozias said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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