Fireworks debate continues

Over time, debate about when and if personal-use fireworks should be legal has become a polarizing issue. Without fail, each and every year local governments hear from citizens voicing opinions on both sides.

Camas and Washougal have modified their laws in recent years, with Washougal currently having some of the strictest regulations in Clark County by only allowing discharge on July 4.

This year, discussion about the issue has become more intense as extreme dry weather conditions have set the stage for a greater level of potential damage that could be caused by personal-use fireworks. Officials ranging from Gov. Jay Inslee to Clark County Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway have urged citizens to forego using their own fireworks, and instead take in one of the displays put on by professionals. Shows are planned in Washougal, Vancouver and Stevenson.

This year’s severe weather conditions raise some good questions about the future of fireworks rules and regulations. According to State Fire Marshal Charles M. Duffy, in 2014 there were 155 fires caused by fireworks. Wildland and vegetation fires accounted for 110, or 71 percent of all fireworks caused fires. That number is likely to be higher in 2015.

It will be difficult to make everyone happy in the great fireworks debate, but Washougal is on the right track by only allowing the discharge of fireworks on July 4, but permitting fireworks to be sold July 2, 3 and 4. This approach gives those who want to celebrate Independence Day the opportunity to do so, while also providing non-profit organizations the chance to raise money for their causes. In turn, those who do not want to use fireworks are only forced to deal with the noise and mess for one day.

In 2016, a new ordinance approved by the Clark County Council will enact a similar law that only allows the discharge of fireworks on July 4 (sale will still be allowed June 28 to July 4) for citizens living south of Northeast 219th Street. While the logic of changing the rules for only a portion of the county is debatable, it’s a step in the right direction.

Camas currently allows fireworks to be sold and discharged July 1 through 4. With the current and future laws of surrounding jurisdictions in mind, it is time for city leaders to further limit the Independence Day fireworks season to one day a year.

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