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Friday, May 7, 2021

Fireworks ban to extend county-wide next year

The Bellingham Police and Fire Departments are teaming up this Fourth of July to enforce Bellingham’s firework ban. The ban was originally passed in June 2014, and the ban will extend county-wide next year.

Since then, Lynden Assistant Fire Chief Robert Spinner asked in a statement for Lynden residents to join in on not using fireworks this year.

Bellingham’s Police Department Lieutenant Bob Vander Yacht emphasized the need for enforcement and education for Bellingham residents to have a fun but safe Independence Day.

“We’re putting out teams of officers and fire marshals,” Vander Yacht said. “Part of it is education and reminding people about the law, but the other part is enforcement.”

The primary concern of the patrols is to provide the community with the understanding that it is illegal to use or possess fireworks within Bellingham’s city limits. The patrol teams expect to limit the quantity of fireworks and illegal devices.

“If there was a year that this would be important to comply with the new law, this is going to be that year,” Vander Yacht said. “It’s a tinderbox across the state of Washington.”

Whatcom County is at high risk for wildfire danger due to dry conditions this summer, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

A county-wide fire ban on recreational fires has been implemented this year in response to this heat wave. That is pretty significant to say you can’t even have a campfire, Vander Yacht said. “That really tells you what the concerns are, even for Whatcom County.”

If people are found possessing or using explosives, a misdemeanor can be filed.

Other explosives such as M-80’s or improvised devices such as tennis ball bombs are illegal anywhere in Washington State. Felony charges could be filed against anyone found in possession of such explosive devices.

“There was a number of concerns from the neighborhoods and from the residents about the level of noise and the level of risk for structural damage from fires because of the density of our population,” Vander Yacht said in response to the initial reasoning behind the ban.

In response to the ban, Bellingham residents are making alternate plans for this Fourth of July.

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s a little annoying, because I probably would have gotten some fireworks,” Matthew Glitsch, a Western student, said. “I might just go watch the firework show or something.”

Western student Kiley Kamitomo, upon learning of Bellingham’s firework ban,  said, “It bums me out. I would assume in a college town, it would probably bum a lot of people out.”

Kamitomo said she has had bad experiences with fireworks in the past, which made her more understanding of the current firework ban.

“People can be really stupid with fireworks, they don’t know how to properly use them,” Kamitomo said.

Kamitomo said the fact of lack of knowledge about fireworks and dry weather could make for a dangerous situation, but could be avoided with proper education.

There are still stands in Whatcom County selling fireworks, but there are no longer firework stands in Bellingham. Fireworks should not be transported back into Bellingham, Vander Yacht said.

Bellingham residents can look forward to Bellingham’s Haggen Inc. Family Fourth of July Celebration as an option for people looking to enjoy a firework show over Bellingham Bay starting around 10:30 p.m.

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