LONG BEACH, Wash. — A recent survey that showed 80 percent support for changing the rules for Fourth of July fireworks has not swayed elected leaders, at least not for now.
Almost 600 people answered an informal questionnaire by the Not a Ban, a Better Plan group. Problems during Independence Day celebrations in 2015 and the mess left behind along peninsula beaches prompted the group to start its work, member Vicki Vanneman said.
Two years later, survey results from Ilwaco, Long Beach and unincorporated Pacific County show more than half of those who responded — 53 percent — favor allowing fireworks on fewer days around the July 4 holiday. More than a quarter — 27 percent — want to ban them entirely.
The five-member group hopes to see fireworks restricted to no more than three days around the holiday. “Many communities in the state have figured out how to regulate and enforce this change,” Vanneman said.
Almost two-thirds of Washington’s population lives in areas that have limited or banned fireworks, according to Washington State Patrol fire prevention data. On the peninsula, people can light them on all eight days allowed by the state, from June 28 to July 5.
No new rules, for now
County leaders have considered cutting the time for fireworks but are not planning to take any action, Commissioner Frank Wolfe said.
The three commissioners want to keep laws for fireworks consistent across the peninsula, in part, because it makes them easier to understand and enforce, he said. If the county changes the days on which people are allowed to light them in unincorporated areas, the cities of Long Beach and Ilwaco would have follow suit to keep rules the same.
“While I respect what the Better Plan folks are doing and trying to accomplish, this is not a simple problem and it probably doesn’t have a simple solution,” Wolfe wrote in an email. “Laws are only as good as our ability to enforce them.”
It’s unclear whether State Parks officers would help make sure local rules were followed if they were different than state law, Wolfe said.
Many complaints about fireworks involve violations of rules that are already in place. So making more restrictive laws for selling and lighting off fireworks might not improve the situation, Wolfe said.
“Locally sold, safe and sane fireworks are generally not the problem,” he wrote. “Most complaints involve fireworks that loft explosive projectiles or detonate with loud bangs. Most of these are not sold on the peninsula and may not be legal.”
However, more dangerous fireworks are available elsewhere, so limiting access to safer ones could backfire, he said. He suggested stricter enforcement of existing rules might be more effective.
Survey takers from peninsula cities favored limiting or banning fireworks by 76 percent, results show.
Long Beach Mayor Jerry Phillips said some on the City Council want to cut a couple of days from the eight-day state schedule, but the majority does not.
The council does not plan to consider changes for fireworks until after new members are elected in November.
Ilwaco plans to stay in line with Long Beach and unincorporated Pacific County when deciding whether to change its rules for Fourth of July celebrations, Mayor Mike Cassinelli said.
“Right now we are in a wait-and-see mode,” he said.
Washington requires 365-day notice before changing rules for fireworks. If new regulations were approved now, they wouldn’t take effect until the Fourth of July in 2019.
Not a Ban, a Better Plan is working to help the peninsula put limits in place before the rowdy crowds of a weekend holiday come in 2020, Vanneman said. “We just cannot go through what we went through in 2015 again,” she said.