PORT TOWNSEND — Citing a declaration of high fire danger from the state Department of Natural Resources, Jefferson County has banned the use, sale and transportation of fireworks.
Jefferson County Fire Marshal Phil Cecere and local fire chiefs voted unanimously to enact the ban on Friday, two days after the county had issued permits to some vendors for the sale of fireworks.
“This was not something that I took lightly, shutting down these fireworks stands,” Cecere said Monday at the Board of County Commissioners meeting. “I had no indication that we would be escalating the fire danger. There was nothing that was concrete that this was going to happen.”
In a news release, Jefferson County officials said a prolonged dry spell and the presence of significant fuel loads in the surrounding areas have substantially increased the risk of fires spreading uncontrollably. Weather reports as of Friday were also predicting above-average temperatures, low humidity and winds.
“Effective immediately, the fire restriction extends to all forms of fireworks, including but not limited to pyrotechnic displays, handheld sparklers, and firecrackers,” the release said. “This restriction applies to all public and private spaces within Jefferson County, including parks, recreational areas, campgrounds, and residential properties.”
Also included are campfires; firepits; use of charcoal briquettes; tiki torches; liquid fuel candles or lanterns; gas or propane fire weed burners; discharge of fireworks of any type and discharge of firearms.
Only gas or propane-fueled appliances and wood or solid-fuel appliances with an enclosed flame are allowed; charcoal cooking is not allowed.
The ban is a temporary measure that will remain in effect until further notice, the release said.
Cecere said in a separate interview Monday the ban does not apply to the storage or transportation of fireworks through the county and that people wanting to set off fireworks they may have purchased must leave the county to do so.
Cecere said fireworks — both used and unused — should be submerged in water before being disposed of. However, because fireworks contain heavy metals and other chemicals, the water should not be dumped out near streams or catch basins, he said.
During public comment at the commissioners’ meeting, some expressed frustration at the late notice of the restrictions, noting that several fireworks vendors had been issued permits only to have them revoked two days later.
Commissioners said the timing of the announcement was unfortunate, but they supported the fire chiefs’ decision and wanted to prioritize safety above all.
“Half the population is overjoyed,” said District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton, “half is incensed.”
There were no permitted fireworks displays scheduled in Jefferson County, according to county spokesperson Wendy Davis, but the ban would not have impacted professional displays.
Enforcement of the ban is up to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Cecere said.
“Public awareness and voluntary compliance are the tools we choose to use,” Cecere said. “Civil enforcement is a last resort.”
East Jefferson Fire Rescue Chief Bret Black said people should politely engage their neighbors about the risk of fireworks.
“Try and engage your neighbors,” Black said. “Make people aware of the risk that people’s decisions are exposing us all to.”
Black said there are only 13 firefighters between Port Townsend and the Hood Canal Bridge, and staff can quickly become overwhelmed with multiple calls, particularly during peak events.
Both Clallam and Jefferson counties enacted burn bans earlier than expected this year, citing dry conditions.
Fireworks remain allowed in certain parts of Clallam County, but the cities of Port Angeles and Sequim have banned fireworks within city limits. Fireworks are also banned in Olympic National Park, state parks, national forests and other public lands.
In areas of Clallam County east of the Elwha River, consumer fireworks may be discharged between 9 a.m. and midnight on the Fourth of July. In areas of Clallam County west of the Elwha River, consumer fireworks may be used or discharged at all times allowed by state law.
A professional fireworks display in Port Angeles is scheduled for 10 p.m. at Pebble Beach, where Front and Oak streets meet.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.