This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri recently summed up what’s wrong with the county’s lax fireworks law:
“It’s not Independence Week that I know of,” he said, referring to the fact that residents of the unincorporated county can legally set off “safe and sane” fireworks for 11 hours daily during the eight days between June 28 and July 5. Muri is part of a County Council committee exploring whether to reduce the hours and days fireworks can be set off or to ban them outright.
If shooting off fireworks truly is an expression of patriotic fervor, celebrating July Fourth’s role in the nation’s history, why allow it more than a week before Independence Day? Or the day after?
“We could maybe at least keep the carnage down to one day,” Muri sensibly suggests.
That would be more in keeping with neighboring counties. Fireworks are limited to July 4 in unincorporated King County and to July 3 and 4 in Thurston.
The towns and cities in Pierce County have a hodgepodge of laws regarding when fireworks can be set off. Some cities allow them July 3-5, including Lakewood and Bonney Lake. Others allow them for several days before the Fourth and the day after, including Gig Harbor, Fife, Buckley and Roy. They’re limited to July 4 in Milton, Auburn, Orting, Pacific, Puyallup, Sumner and University Place.
Cities that ban fireworks outright – including Tacoma, Steilacoom, Ruston, Fircrest, Lacey, Federal Way and Des Moines – don’t completely escape the noise and fire threat. Invariably some people choose to ignore the law, but bans probably do reduce the problem somewhat.
And let’s be honest here: The “safe and sane” fireworks – the kind that can be bought at the temporary stands set up in grocery store parking lots – aren’t the ones causing the noise, injuries and fires, it’s the “unsafe and insane” fireworks sold on tribal lands. But if the time frame for “safe and sane” types is limited, it likely will cut down on the other kind, too.
Ideally, fireworks should be left to the experts. But at the very least, Pierce County and its cities should strive for more uniformity in their laws. Limiting fireworks to the actual day that is supposedly being celebrated is a good start.