Camas to vote on fireworks ordinance

Camas City Council members agreed this week at their Monday, Nov. 15 workshop to bring an ordinance back to council in December that would give the fire chief the ability to ban the discharge and sales of fireworks during periods of extreme fire danger. 

Under the proposed ordinance, the fire chief would be able to ban the sale and discharge of fireworks in Camas during a “period of hot, dry weather, accompanied by low fuel moistures (when) wildland fires can be expected, and fire growth will be accelerated.” 

These were the weather conditions that prompted Camas fire and city officials to ban the discharge of fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday earlier this year, but city leaders encountered a legal snag when they tried to also ban the sale of fireworks during the July 2021 extreme fire danger event. 

“We had an emergency fire situation last Fourth of July and sought in both (Camas and Washougal) to ban the sale and discharge of fireworks,” Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart told Camas City Council members on Nov. 15. “We discovered that Camas and Washougal have very different fireworks ordinances. In Washougal, the fire chief can ban sales and discharge through a directive. In Camas, the power is entrusted to the mayor, in consultation with the fire chief, but the mayor does not have direct statutory (power) to ban sales (of fireworks.)”

The city received feedback from the public over the summer that it made no sense to ban the discharge of fireworks if city officials were unable to also ban fireworks sales, Swinhart added. 

On Monday, council members considered whether to give the power to ban the discharge and sale of fireworks to the mayor or the fire chief, and agreed on the fire chief. 

Councilwoman Melissa Smith said she preferred keeping Camas’ ordinance in line with Washougal’s, which gives the power of banning fireworks discharge/sale to the fire chief, as the two cities are partners in the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.