The city of Port Orchard will put a notice in upcoming utility bills reminding folks to be safe and sensible about fireworks. The decision was triggered by recent complaints from city residents.
Among them is Elissa Whittleton, who is weary of the traffic and
— as she describes it — mayhem that take place on the 4th of July
in her Tracy Avenue neighborhood. It should be noted that Tracy
Avenue, perched up on the hillside above Sinclair Inlet, has one of
the best views in the city of the annual Fathoms ‘O Fun fireworks
The city council on March 18 brought in Port Orchard Police Chief Geoffrey Marti and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue Chief Steve Wright to talk about what could be done to maximize safety.
Whittleton would like the city to designate fireworks free zones, specifically areas like Tracy Avenue that become congested with pedestrians and traffic. But Wright said such zones would be “hard to enforce.”
Selectively designated no-fireworks zones may not even be something the city can do, Marti said, “To say that area is unique and deserves unique rules would be hard to defend (to other neighborhoods that may also seek such a ban).”
Illegal fireworks are the greatest source of incidents, according to SKFR data, Wright said. “The public sort of takes a liberty that they view this as their time to do something that is really outside of the norm.”
Wright recalled past efforts to impose a countywide ban on fireworks that fizzled out for lack of support.
Staffing for Independence Day is always a challenge, both chiefs said. Both the fire and police departments call in additional help, but officers and fire units can’t be everywhere. SKFR factors in weather conditions in planning for the 4th.
Marti advised people who call 911 for fireworks-related issues to specify first if there is an imminent danger: has someone been injured, is someone’s house on fire? People should also specify if they want an officer to contact them. The department will triage calls, but eventually they will get back to everyone who requests contact, Marti said, adding. “It may take some time.”
Mayor Tim Matthes noted that two years ago the fireworks were “pretty bad,” but last year, the Port of Bremerton prohibited fireworks on its property and had volunteers (identified as representing the port) patrol the property. Warning signs also reminded waterfront visitors. The result was a calmer atmosphere, Matthes said. He recommended the city recruit additional volunteers to help the port’s effort.
Bek Ashby, a council member who lives in the same general area as Whittleton, said she enjoys the festivities and is resigned to the drill.
“Every 4th of July, I have to be home after six to protect my home. That’s just the way it is,” Ashby said. “I just consider that the price I pay to have the best view in the city of the fireworks.”
Months later, she still finds spent incendiary devices in her flower beds.
“I for one don’t want to eliminate the fireworks in the city,” Ashby said later in the meeting. “It’s joyous in my neighborhood. It’s loud but people are having a lot of fun.”
Whittleton, at the council’s March 25 meeting, thanked them for discussing the idea but said, “not much headway” was made in resolving safety issues. She suggested charging a tax or fee on fireworks sold in the city and using the money to enforce the prohibition against illegal fireworks.
State law defines legal “consumer fireworks” (not to be confused with “display fireworks”) as “any small firework device designed to produce visible effects by combustion” under regulations of the United States consumer product safety commission, “and including some small devices designed to produce audible effects, such as whistling devices, ground devices containing 50 mg or less of explosive materials, and aerial devices containing 130 mg or less of explosive materials …”
What are your thoughts on fireworks? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Tolerate ’em? What suggestions do you have regarding celebration of Independence Day where you live?
And finally, what’s the best place in Kitsap County for watching fireworks?