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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A boisterous Fourth sends pets scrambling

UPDATED: Wed., July 5, 2017

Fireworks explode over Spokane’s Riverfront Park on Tuesday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Fireworks explode over Spokane’s Riverfront Park on Tuesday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

This year’s Fourth of July in the Inland Northwest appeared to be quiet and not particularly dangerous or smoke-and-fire-filled, though it did feature its fair share of spooked dogs and cats.

From Saturday through Tuesday, Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) took in 106 animals – a stark increase from the 55 they usually expect on a normal summer weekend, said Nancy Hills, SCRAPS’ regional director.

“That’s a pretty big number, and a lot of them were lost animals that were likely scared by fireworks,” she said. “Even though we’re only supposed to have public displays, that’s not necessarily happening.”

Many of the 41 dogs and 65 cats that SCRAPS took in over the long weekend were clearly “couch potatoes,” Hill said, meaning they were inside animals that somehow got out and became lost. By noon Wednesday, she said about 11 animals were returned to their owners.

But the most common call for animal-control officers over the weekend was to rescue pets left in hot cars, which accounted for about 25 percent of the 197 total calls for service.

“People just need to leave their pets at home,” Hill said. “In this time of year, pets cannot be left unattended in a motor vehicle. It’s just not safe. It heats up too quickly.”

County and city fire departments reported a slightly higher-than-average number of incidents on this year’s holiday compared with years prior, but nothing major directly caused by fireworks, said Brian Schaeffer, fire chief for Spokane City Fire Department. He said of the 222 incidents countywide, most were medical calls, and a small percentage were burns or other injuries related to fireworks.

“The areas that have the requirement for the ban traditionally have less incidents than those that don’t,” he said. “But it’s still prevalent in areas.”

One of the areas in the county that allows fireworks on private property is Airway Heights, which was the scene of one incident that left an 11-year-old needing stitches after suffering from deep cuts to his face.

According to Chris Bovey, the boy’s father, he and his son were watching people light off fireworks at the Airway Heights Baptist Church on the corner of U.S. Highway 2 and Russell Street.

“We were far away from the fireworks, we were just watching the show,” he said. “Something went wrong and a mortar shell exploded too close or something and a piece of shrapnel flew and hit him right in the chin.”

Bovey said his son was cut down to the bone – but not burned – and required stitches. The boy was in surgery by Wednesday afternoon at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where Bovey said he remained in good spirits.

“He was already asking about the fireworks next year,” he said. “Mom is definitely on the fence about it, so it might not happen.”

Another city in the county that allows fireworks is Deer Park. Lonnie Rash, assistant chief at Fire District 4, said the northern Spokane County department had extra staff for the holiday, but ended up not really needing it.

“We had a couple of bonfires, smoke and odor calls, maybe some illegal burning, but nothing attributed to fireworks specifically,” he said. “But, in general, it was a pretty quiet evening. We were expecting it to be a bit busier.”

In Spokane Valley, Darrin Coldiron, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department, said there was just one incident of note: a brush fire that hadn’t even spread to the house by the time firefighters arrived. He said it was unclear if it was fireworks related.

As to why some years are busier than others, he said that’s for fate to decide.

“People have asked me that question before: ‘Are we busier on the Fourth?’ ” he said. “And sometimes we are. But other times it seems a lot slower.”

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