Local leaders should follow Vancouver, pass fireworks ban

Confronted by residents who told tales of terrified pups and neighbors worried about fire risks, a group of Washougal leaders are going to look into the pros and cons of instituting a complete ban on private fireworks.

Currently, the city only allows private individuals to discharge fireworks from 9 a.m. to midnight on the July Fourth holiday and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.

But we all know people are pushing these time limits, setting off fireworks at 3 a.m., like Washougal’s mayor mentioned, or even, inexplicably, setting them off in the middle of September or April for no reason whatsoever.

In Camas, folks get an extra day on July 3 to shoot off their fireworks and celebrate Independence Day a few hours early.

Camas City Councilor Melissa Smith pushed for the fireworks limits in her city for years, but says she would rather see a ban. She recently told the Post-Record that her neighborhood sounded like a warzone a couple years ago and that, while this year — the first with limitations — was better, it still wasn’t ideal for pets or people with an aversion to fireworks.

We agree with Smith and the Washougal neighbors calling for an all-out ban on individuals shooting off fireworks.

We get it, fireworks are fun, but having a good time shouldn’t come at the expense of your community and neighbors. Besides, if you want to see fireworks, there are plenty of amazing displays locally and regionally each year. Stay local and watch the Port of Camas-Washougal’s display, stake out a spot at the Fort Vancouver fireworks and watch one of the largest shows in the country or head to the Portland waterfront and see some incredible blues bands while you’re enjoying those fireworks. All three options are vastly better than inadvertently starting a house fire, terrorizing your neighbor’s pets or, worse, terrorizing a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as many as one-fourth of military veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have come back the States with PTSD. Hearing, seeing and smelling fireworks can trigger traumatic memories for vets with PTSD.

The explosions are especially troubling for combat veterans. Over the past decade, as more and more vets returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the calls for “fireworks free” zones have increased. City leaders across the country are weighing limitations and fireworks bans. A few have even incorporated “noiseless” fireworks into their city shows to ensure that every member of the community can enjoy the Fourth of July festivities.

For pets and wild animals, the fireworks cause untold panic. Shelters report higher than normal numbers of strays around the Fourth of July from pets who have become so scared they’ve bolted from their homes in fear. Wild animals are known to run in a blind panic when fireworks are nearby, sometimes darting into traffic and often abandoning their young in the wild in search of a safer space.

Knowing how tramautic fireworks can be for people and animals, we would encourage city leaders in Washougal and Camas to consider an all-out ban on individuals shooting off fireworks. Vancouver just went through its first “fireworks free” year and most people reported a quieter Fourth. There were still rule-breakers, of course, but the threat of fines and punishment seemed to keep most people from shooting off their fireworks inside city limits. The same would probably be true for Camas and Washougal — it would take some getting used to, and the city leaders would have to make sure the ban was being enforced, but a fireworks ban in the area would prevent accidental fires, help keep pets and wild animals safe and give peace of mind to our veterans.