City Council limits fireworks in Camas

Period when Independence Day fireworks can be discharged is reduced to two days

The Camas City Council on Monday re-approved an ordinance that shortens to two days the time period in July when fireworks can be discharged.

The ordinance also states that the mayor can prohibit the discharge of all fireworks during periods of extreme fire danger.

An ordinance was originally approved following a public hearing on Sept. 15, but had to be approved a second time due to a procedural error, according to Camas Mayor Scott Higgins.

The vote was 5-1, with Melissa Smith voting no and Greg Anderson abstaining because he was not present for the public hearing.

Under the new guidelines, Independence Day holiday fireworks can be discharged on July 3 and 4, from 9 a.m. to midnight. They can be purchased and sold July 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 4 from 9 a.m. to midnight, and July 5 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

According to state law, the changes will not take effect until September 2016 — one year following adoption of the ordinance.

Currently, within city limits fireworks can be discharged July 1 through July 4. They can be sold July 1 through July 5.

Two of the jurisdictions immediately surrounding Camas — Washougal and Vancouver — currently limit the discharge fireworks to July 4. Clark County’s unincorporated areas will follow suit beginning in 2016.

On Sept. 8, a public hearing was held on the issue. At the time, the fire marshal’s office was proposing allowing fireworks discharge on just one day — July 4.

Local citizens spoke about the precedent the ordinance could set.

“We are aware of the sort of implications that this sort of ordinance is going to have,” said Cameron Vega, a student at Camas High School. “Not just right now on fireworks sales but later on, on the business environment that we are creating here in Camas, as well as the civil liberties that we like to feel we all possess.”

Brian Owens said Camas should do what is best for its citizens, and not be influenced by what other communities are doing.

“One of the things I love about living in Camas is it’s not Vancouver, and it’s not Washougal, and it’s not other places,” he said. “I think it’s a unique culture here. I am worried about a trend of following what other people are doing, versus us setting a standard and being the leaders of what we want to do in the city.”

Fran Bylsma said she has seen fireworks — sometimes illegal ones — cause damage to property. And garbage is often left in their wake.

“I think that not everyone is responsible,” she said. “We are in a drought. We have fire danger.”

Councilman Tim Hazen said the council should consider the issue comprehensively, and how it will impact all facets of the community.

“I was surprised a little bit to hear that it’s more about democracy, which I think summed it up very well, and a slope of our rights as citizens,” he said. “But at the same time, I think we do have to take a look at the extreme fire danger that we deal with, and the mere fact that it can cause a tremendous amount of disruption to the community when it goes on for an extended period of time.”

Smith said the fireworks issue has been debated for at least the last decade. She is not in favor of banning fireworks, but doesn’t believe they need to be allowed for more than one day.

“I believe in democracy, but we’re not taking anybody’s liberties away,” Smith said. “The fourth of July is Independence Day. So, why should we be celebrating for three or four days?”

Councilmen Steve Hogan and Don Chaney suggested that allowing fireworks’ discharge on two days, on July 3 and 4, would give citizens adequate time to celebrate with friends, family and neighbors without infringing on the rights of others.

“There are reasons why multiple days, for family purposes, might make sense,” Hogan said.