PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County officials said the last-minute ban on fireworks just before the Fourth of July was largely successful and discussed the possibility of a safe haven for pyrotechnics in the future.
“With the exception of Protection Island, we were the only county to have no fires called in,” said Don Svetich, deputy fire chief for Quilcene Fire Rescue. “Everyone around us got hammered.”
Fire officials and county leaders discussed the impacts of the ban Monday during the Board of County Commissioners meeting, calling the timing unfortunate but ultimately approving of the outcome.
No fires or injuries related to fireworks were reported in the county over the holiday, according to East Jefferson Fire Rescue Chief Bret Black. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office issued tickets to one person for violating the ban.
The county banned fireworks June 30, following a designated increase of fire danger for Western Washington by the state Department of Natural Resources.
That declaration came through about midnight on June 29, District 2 Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour said, and the following day, the country’s fire officials voted unanimously to enact an increased burn ban that included consumer fireworks.
The public was largely compliant, Sheriff Joe Nole said, but fireworks could be heard throughout the county and deputies responded to multiple calls regarding fireworks.
“There are many more people that want to light off fireworks than there are deputies,” Nole said. “Calls were going from Brinnon to Gardiner to Marrowstone (Island). Everyone was running around trying to do the best they could.”
Nole said between 4 p.m. and midnight July 4, deputies received 46 calls regarding fireworks but issued tickets to only one person.
“One person did get a couple of tickets because he wouldn’t go along with the program,” Nole said.
The Gardiner Boat Ramp and Irondale Beach Park turned out to be popular locations for setting off fireworks, Nole said, including many from people who had traveled from outside the county and said they were unaware of the ban.
Almost all the people approached by fire officials or deputies regarding the ban were compliant, said Brinnon Fire Chief Tim Manly.
“A little bit of gruff but nothing that warranted having the ticket to be issued,” Manly said.
As summers get hotter and drier, officials said future bans may be necessary and discussed ways the county could better inform the public and potentially create specific areas where fireworks are allowed.
“On the surface, I like the idea of a safe fireworks user site,” Nole said. “Somewhere over the water. It’s a lot better than heading into the woods or people’s backyards that may be forested.”
A fire engine could be assigned and dedicated to monitoring the site, Manly said.
The ban wouldn’t prevent professional fireworks shows from going forward, but there were no such shows scheduled in the county. Professional shows are permitted by the state, and the process for obtaining one can be arduous and expensive, Black said.
District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean suggested creating a less strenuous local permit for professional shows, but Black said the local fire districts didn’t have the capacity to administer such a permit due to the many requirements around storage, transportation and licensing of professional fireworks.
Officials said they still felt the ban was appropriate but noted repeatedly the late notice of the ban was problematic.
“I have no regret over the decision and actions that we collectively took,” Eisenhour said. “Now we’re trying to figure out how to make this better in the future.”
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.