With new restrictions on the use of fireworks within city limits this year, Airway Heights has lost its spark.
The West Plains city was the last within Spokane County to allow “safe and sane” devices in parks and city streets until the City Council voted last month to ban fireworks from public areas.
The June 20 decision is frustrating for many in the community – bordered by Fairchild Air Force Base – who said the Independence Day holiday has always been a boost to the local economy.
“We are really bummed,” said Joleen Grandboys, who lives across from Sunset Park. In years past, the city’s largest public park would be flooded with revelers looking to light fireworks on the Fourth of July, she said.
“You’d see them coming in, sometimes with hand trucks full,” of fireworks, said Grandboys, whose son is deployed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps. “We usually hauled out the tables and chairs” to watch the free and nonchoreographed show.
Fireworks will still be allowed within the city limits but only on private property, said Airway Heights Fire Chief Mitch Metzger.
“No city parks or playfields, no parking lots, no roads or streets in a manner that obstructs or interferes with vehicles,” Metzger said. Vacant lots, regardless of ownership, are also off limits because of fire danger.
Violators could face up to 90 days in jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both.
Public safety was the primary reason for the changes, Metzger said.
“In the past, the city streets have been so clogged with parked cars and people trying to light off fireworks it was nearly impassable for cars and city officials – police and fire – to pass through,” he said.
Police will be out enforcing the restrictions, making sure that those lighting fireworks on private property have the owner’s permission, Metzger said.
Residents said it isn’t unusual for thousands of people from Spokane and surrounding cities to crowd streets and local parking lots to light fireworks wherever they could find a spot. Those visitors stop to buy food, drinks and fireworks.
“(Police) usually closed down the street,” near the park, said Kayla Crawford, who was selling “safe and sane” fireworks Saturday at a stand on Highway 2 sponsored by the Airway Heights Lions Club. Business was down on the first day of sales, Crawford said, a concern for the Lions, who will provide a percentage of the proceeds from the stand to low-income children and families.
“We aren’t going to stop because of this stupid ban,” said Jerry Ramson, who purchased more than $50 worth of sparklers, fountains, snaps and other fireworks from the stand. “We’ve got them, and we’ll find somewhere to light them.”