Washougal residents fume over fireworks

City to research requests for total fireworks ban

Several Washougal residents did not have such a fantastic Fourth of July this year. Instead, a few locals spent part of the holiday watering their lawns and houses to reduce the risk of fireworks-related fires. Others camped out in closets with frightened pets, trying to reduce their animals’ exposure to the loud noises.

The Washougal City Council heard those stories and more during the July 10 council meeting.

Lester Thomas, of Washougal, said a man who was setting off fireworks in front of Thomas’ house told him to mind his own business when Thomas asked where he lived.

“Ten percent of the people are causing 90 percent of the grief,” Thomas said.

Later in the meeting, he asked the Washougal City Council to ban fireworks completely.

“Vancouver has banned them,” Thomas said. “Washougal should ban them and talk to Camas to ban them. Lead the way.”

In Washougal, the discharge of fireworks is allowed from 9 a.m. to midnight, July 4, and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Dec. 31.

The discharge of fireworks in Camas is limited to 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 3, and 9 a.m. to midnight, July 4, as well as from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Dec. 31.

Norm Bembenek, of Washougal, said his pets were terrified because of what he called the “loudest Fourth” he has ever experienced. He and his neighbors used ladders and garden hoses to make sure the fireworks did not cause bark dust fires.

Karen Rezabek, of Washougal, said debris from spent fireworks landed near her home.

“I have rights to safety, courtesy and fire control,” she said. “(The fireworks) are beyond what is tolerable.”

City Councilman Paul Greenlee said he had sparklers when he was growing up, “not this field artillery.”

“Can we ever regulate which fireworks are legal?” Greenlee asked. “Is there a practical way to enforce it?”

“I am not adamantly opposed to fireworks, but (discharging them) at 3 a.m. is beyond reasonableness.”

Washougal Police Sgt. Zane Freschette told the council members it is very difficult to enforce the use of different types of fireworks.

“We were chasing down noise complaints, with three to five (officers) on shift,” he said.

“Some people love the festivities,” Freschette added. “Our ability to address the noise complaints is limited.”

Washougal City Attorney Kenneth Woodrich said if a city-wide ban on fireworks were approved, it would involve a one-year wait before it would go into effect.

Washougal City Councilman Dave Shoemaker, chairman of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said the committee has “kicked around” the idea of a total fireworks ban a couple of times.

Mayor Sean Guard said some people thought it was one of the quietest weeks, in the days leading up to July 4, while others said the same days were some of the worst for fireworks noise.

While Guard was volunteering at the Camas Lions beer garden on July 4, at Washougal Waterfront Park, his wife, Ann, stayed in a closet with their three dogs to keep them calm.

“I heard fireworks sporadically at 3 a.m., in the middle of the night,” Guard said.

Bridgette McCarthy, a Washougal High School senior who serves as a student representative to the City Council, said students like the fireworks.

“Some get out of hand without parental supervision,” she added.

Councilman Ray Kutch said fireworks are a safety concern, because some of them resemble “ballistic missiles.”

Cindy Riedel, a retired trauma nurse, talked about children who have lost their fingers from fireworks exploding in their hands. She also mentioned that sparklers, at 2,000 degrees, can cause eye injuries.

The Washougal Public Works Committee — Shoemaker, Joyce Lindsay and Brent Boger — will meet at noon, Monday, Aug. 21, in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. Shoemaker said the agenda items will include discussion about a fireworks ban or “other measures to control abuse of fireworks.” The meeting is open to the public.