Clallam eyes fireworks rules based on fire danger by region

Proposed ordinance to be linked to DNR precaution levels

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County could regulate fireworks by fire danger in specific regions beginning in 2021 to better reflect on-the-ground conditions.

The three county commissioners Monday directed staff to update a proposed fireworks ordinance to trigger an automatic ban on the discharge of consumer fireworks according to state Department of Natural Resources Industrial Fire Precaution Levels, or IFPLs.

“If our ordinance can support language that would trigger that automatic ban by region and not countywide, then that seems like the solution,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said in a Monday work session.

Commissioners had previously discussed banning consumer fireworks countywide during periods of high or very high/extreme fire danger as declared by the county fire marshal based on DNR burning restrictions.

DNR, which designates fire danger for entire counties, also sets Industrial Fire Precaution Levels for logging operations in five regions in Clallam County.

The five regions are:

• 649 N along the Pacific Coast.

• 650 for Forks and the inland West End.

• 652 NW for areas around Lake Crescent.

• 653 S for the Sequim, Port Angeles and Joyce areas.

• 652 NE for areas south of the population centers in the central/eastern county.

“I like going by sector because they take into account fuel moisture and all the other criteria,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said.

“And [the fire danger] can be very different,” Commissioner Bill Peach added. “That’s my personal experience.”

Commissioners are expected to discuss a revised fireworks ordinance Jan. 13.

“I think we’re pretty close,” Ozias said.

“Hopefully we can work to set ourselves a public hearing in February and move this off of our desk before we get into the summertime.”

Commissioners have debated fireworks regulations for more than a year, seeking 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 danger.

“We’ve had to work a little bit to try and strike an appropriate compromise,” Ozias said.

The cities of Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Sequim have each banned the sale and discharge of consumer fireworks.

Local fireworks regulations take effect one year after they are adopted, according to state law.

Except for periods of high or very high/extreme fire danger, the ordinance before commissioners Monday would allow the use of consumer fireworks west of the Elwha River throughout the year.

Consumer fireworks would be allowed east of the Elwha River only between 9 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. July 4.

Johnson said a fireworks ban should take effect “immediately” when the fire danger becomes high.

Peach said the fire danger on West End can be vastly different than the fire danger in the eastern portion of the county.

“The West Coast usually has a lower level,” Peach said said of IFPLs.

“They’ll be on a Level 2, a hootowl, whereas the eastern county would be at a Level 4. It could be a shutdown.”

IFPLs have five protection levels from zero to four, the most stringent of which is a Level 4 general shutdown of logging operations.

“On the West End, because a lot of people are connected with the timber industry — logging — everybody knows when the shutdowns are,” Peach said.

Peach and Johnson, both of whom are retired foresters, said a Level 3 partial shutdown of an IFPL may be an appropriate trigger for a fireworks ban.

Commissioners said they would work with Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Stanley to update the proposed fireworks ordinance.

“I don’t think that that the [countywide] burning restriction takes into account information such as the fuel content, fuel moisture, inventory fuels,” Peach said.

“[IFPLs] is a far more sophisticated method.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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