As people start planning to celebrate the Fourth of July, the Spokane Fire Department is reminding people that fireworks are illegal in the city of Spokane and most of the county.
In spite of the ban, “local scofflaws” are likely planning to go outside the county to buy fireworks, the fire department said in a newsletter.
Spokane banned all fireworks in 1993 after enacting a partial ban a year earlier. The ban includes sparklers, which burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause serious injuries.
Fireworks are also banned in unincorporated Spokane County and the cities of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Cheney and Millwood.
In Kootenai County, “safe and sane” fireworks remain legal, including sparklers. Kootenai Fire and Rescue Division Chief Dan Ryan said the fireworks available at local stands should meet this definition.
“As a general rule, it cannot travel outside a 15-foot circle and it can’t go more than 20 feet up in the air,” he said. The ban covers Roman candles, rockets and shells.
Coeur d’Alene bans the possession of all fireworks, including legal ones, on city-owned property, including parks, beaches and docks. Post Falls prohibits the use of fireworks on city or school district-owned property.
Though the fire risk is lower this year than last, Ryan said people who intend to use fireworks should take basic safety precautions.
“Have a hose or a bucket of water handy so if something does get out of hand you can take care of it early,” he said.
The Colville Business Council also issued a ban in June on all fireworks on the Colville Indian Reservation, due to the high risk of wildfires.
“We are still recovering from last year’s wildfires. We anticipate another tough fire season, and just can’t risk celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks this year,” the Colville Tribe said in a news release.
“We certainly can appreciate the economic impact this decision will have on our Tribal Member fireworks vendors, but with what is at stake, we felt that we had to consider the potential impacts on the entire community paramount.”
The Spokane fireworks bans are designed to keep people safe during the Fourth of July holiday. In the decade before the ban was put into place, the fire department received reports of 290 fireworks-related emergency room visits from Spokane area hospitals between June 28 and July 6, with a high of 56 injuries in 1984. In the following decade, the total number of injuries leading to a hospital visit was just 37, with no more than eight in any one year.
Fires started by fireworks have also fallen, from an average of about 104 per year in the decade before the ban to four or five per year in the decades since.
Veterans and pets are especially affected by illegal firework use.
“For veterans who suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), the intermittent firework explosions throughout their neighborhood during the July 4th holiday causes increased stress and distress,” the fire department newsletter said.
Pets also get anxious and may run away.
“July 5th is the busiest day of the year for SCRAPS and Spokanimal as employees and volunteers try to reunite terrified runaway dogs with their owners,” the newsletter said.
Fines for violating the Spokane County ban can be up to $1,000 for each violation. People who violate the ban are liable for restitution if property is damaged, as well as for fire department response costs. Parents are responsible for violations by their children.
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