The Fourth of July is a celebration of the freedom and liberty that is the cornerstone of America. But, as we pass the potato salad and start up the grill, remember that those rights come with responsibilities — including being mindful of our neighbors and practicing firework safety.
This year brings a particularly combustible mix. The record high temperatures across the Pacific Northwest have left dangerous fire conditions just as the end of most pandemic restrictions forecast an Independence Day primed for overindulgence.
Last year, the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office received 597 reports of fireworks-related incidents, including 237 injuries and 360 fires across the state. Over the last five years, fireworks-related fires caused almost $8 million in damages — mostly to residential property — and 1,227 injuries, which ranged from first-degree burns to amputations and even death.
Most of these incidents occurred on the Fourth of July.
State law allows firework sales and use for Independence Day and New Year’s, but local regulations vary. Fireworks are banned in Seattle and most municipalities in the region. Due to fire danger, Clark and Thurston counties, as well as the city of Bothell, have emergency bans. Fireworks are still allowed in unincorporated Pierce and King counties, as well as some areas of Snohomish County.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display, many of which are back after being canceled in 2020. But the reality — sparked by the almost nonexistent enforcement of firework bans — is that regardless of where we live, overzealous celebrants will be lighting up the night sky on July 4.
Please use restraint, and consider foregoing lighting off private fireworks.
If you do buy fireworks, make sure you purchase them from a reputable dealer and follow all safety instructions on the packaging. Be careful with pets, who may be spooked and run away, and also be aware and respectful of your neighbors’ pets.
“You want to take obvious safety measures to keep things as proper as possible,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Robert Wittenberg said in an interview.
Children should not handle fireworks, he recommended, and you should always keep a water supply handy.
Other advice includes making sure fireworks are only used outdoors and away from buildings and other flammable materials. Don’t try and reignite any fireworks, always place them on the ground when you light them and never light one in your hand.
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, practicing firework safety will ensure that red glare you see comes from the heavens, not emergency vehicle lights.