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Celebrate legally and safely on Independence Day

Posted: June 21, 2013 11:30:20 AM PDT

Public safety officials urge residents to celebrate safely and legally this Independence Day, which will be the last year to use consumer fireworks in Bellingham.

The Bellingham City Council gave final approval earlier this week to a total ban on the sale and use of personal fireworks within city limits, beginning in one year. The year’s delay is required by state law, which means current requirements remain in place for Independence Day 2013.

Bellingham Interim Fire Chief Roger Christensen said public safety officials and local fireworks safety advocates are working hard this year to make sure people know about current requirements.  He said the Fire and Police departments are providing additional emphasis patrol teams to patrol neighborhoods from June 28 through July 5. The patrol teams will circulate in neighborhoods, respond to 9-1-1 calls, provide education about the Bellingham fireworks code, and take enforcement actions for violations of the code. Additionally, five electronic reader boards will be placed around the city to provide additional reminders about the rules.

2013 fireworks laws and time restrictions
Retail fireworks stands open in Bellingham on June 28 -- after inspections and permitting by the Bellingham Fire Department -- and sales continue through July 4.  City residents should only purchase fireworks from licensed and permitted fireworks stands within the city.  The Bellingham Fire Department does not inspect or license stands located outside the city. As a result, many of those stands sell fireworks that are prohibited within the City. 

The Bellingham fireworks code states it is unlawful to use or discharge consumer fireworks at any time except on July 4th between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight.

City residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 if fireworks are being discharged in their neighborhoods before or after July 4, or if illegal fireworks are being discharged at any time.

Fireworks regulations in place today in Bellingham are more restrictive than state regulations.  Violations of the Bellingham fireworks code are misdemeanor offenses that may be punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, or both.

More details about current fireworks regulations can be found in the Bellingham Municipal Code (10.24.130).

2013 legal and illegal fireworks
The City permits the possession, use and discharge of some consumer fireworks on July 4th.

The following are examples of legal fireworks in the city limits of Bellingham: Novelty and smoke items, sparklers and spinners, helicopters, cones and fountains, wheels, Roman candles (up to 10 "stars").

The Bellingham fireworks code is more restrictive than the state fireworks law.  The city prohibits the use of "mortar-type fireworks" even though mortar-type fireworks may be permitted under the state fireworks law. Mortar-type firework means a device including a shell or shells, typically round or cylindrical, that is launched in the air using a tube.  Both stand-alone mortar devices and multi-aerial devices that launch shells into the air meet this definition and are prohibited under the Bellingham fireworks code. 

The following items are considered illegal explosive devices and are illegal anywhere in the State of Washington: M-80's or larger, cherry bombs, any improvised device such as tennis ball bombs. Felony charges can be brought against people found guilty of possessing or discharging some illegal explosives.

Fireworks safety tips
Christensen said families celebrating with legal fireworks should take the precautions below to protect children and the public from fireworks injuries and prevent neighborhood nuisance and property damage. Educate every member of your family about the following 4 B’s:

When Planning to Celebrate—"Be Considerate!"
Use or discharge of legal fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July can only occur between 9 a.m. and midnight on the Fourth of July. Be considerate of your neighbors, family pets and your environment.

Before Lighting Fireworks—"Be Prepared!"
Purchase only legal fireworks, available at licensed stands in the City of Bellingham. Purchase only the quantity that you will use. Ensure the safety of pets. Keep a bucket of water nearby in which to place all used fireworks. Have a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby to put out stray sparks. Clear a level area away from things that can burn. Know the emergency number to call for your area, your address/location, and basic first aid. Teach your children to "stop, drop, and roll" if their clothes catch on fire.

When Lighting Fireworks—"Be Safe!"
Keep fireworks stored in a secured location to prohibit their access. Only adults should light fireworks. Use eye protection, wear safety goggles. Light one at a time and move away quickly. Keep spectators at a safe distance. Use only outdoors, away from anything that can burn. To prevent injuries, follow the directions on the label carefully. Again, be considerate of your neighbors, family pets and your environment.

When Finished—"Be Responsible!"
Clean up all debris when finished. Duds can be dangerous; if a fireworks item does not light or fire, an adult should wait at least five minutes, approach it carefully, and place it in a bucket of water. Make sure unused fireworks, matches and lighters are out of sight and reach of children.








The fireworks in the photographs above are examples of mortar-style fireworks, which are prohibited in the City of Bellingham. Violations of the Bellingham fireworks code are misdemeanor offenses that may be punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, or both.




More information:

Bellingham Municipal Code (10.24.130)

Washington State Patrol Office of the State Fire Marshal


Media Contacts:
Jason Napier, Bellingham Fire Marshal, 360-778-8420
Mark Young, Bellingham Police Department, 360-778-8773

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