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Tag: fireworks


Confessions of a ‘domestic terrorist’

TrinityI wrote the following for the Fourth of July, 1991, when I was considerably less of a curmudgeon and my memories of boyhood were fresher. I’m not saying it’s great, but – given the enduring male obsession with explosives – it does seem to be timeless.

Americans have some crazy ways of celebrating their holidays.

In December we fell millions of baby trees, festoon them with strings of blinking lights, then heap Ninja Turtle dolls and other gewgaws beneath them. That’s Christmas.

At Easter we hide little baskets filled with tacky plastic grass, chocolate eggs and crusty yellow marshmallow bunnies. Kids go after these like bloodhounds and wolf down enough sugar to keep the dentists busy for months.

On New Year’s Eve we get falling-down drunk, wear paper hats and act like clowns all night, then stumble into our cars and hold a great big demolition derby.

Which brings us to the Fourth of July – and fireworks. Read more »


Tragedy reflects potential danger from any kind of fire

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The horrible news from Arizona that 19 members of an elite firefighting crew were killed by a fast-moving wall of flame should be a cautionary tale.

The lesson is that any fire, however it is caused, can have tragic consequences.

The Yarnell Hill wildfire — the deadliest in 80 years – reportedly was caused by lightning. But it could just as easily have been caused by an unattended campfire, a cigarette flipped out a car window, a criminal firebug or kids playing with fireworks. When potential fuel is dry, all it takes

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Please – let’s not re-enact Gettysburg this Fourth

In theory, the “rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air” of the national anthem is about fighting off trespassing British ships, not a personal call to arms.

Neighbors, firefighters and just about every dog in America would really prefer to hold down the massive explosions this time of year. The Office of the State Fire Marshal has gone so far as to tell us how to distinguish fireworks that are merely unsafe and insane from pyrotechnics that might draw the attention of international arms inspectors.

Here are some of the fire marshal’s hints that your fireworks might be illegal:

• It resembles a roll of coins with a fuse coming out the side.

• It looks homemade, i.e., wrapped in electrical tape.

• It carries a safety warning, such as “For outdoor use only by federally licensed personnel” or “DANGEROUS: If found, deliver to local fire or police department.”

You would think that people could figure out this stuff on their own – figure out, say, that a tennis ball filled with explosives is against the law and also not a smart thing to toy around with. But the explosions splitting the air every Fourth suggest that the extreme hazards of these devices is precisely their appeal.

Here are our own “top signs that your fireworks may be illegal”:

• The guy you buy them from has four missing fingers.

• The “firecracker” is a toner cartridge with a Yemen return address.
Read more »


Pierce County and cities should seek consistent fireworks laws

"Safe-and-sane" fireworks were on sale at a Thurston County stand in 2010. (Staff file photo)

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.
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Another show of contempt from fireworks scofflaws

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The majority who ignite illegal fireworks before, during and after the Fourth of July may otherwise be honest and decent people.

Most of them presumably respect the law, except when they don’t.

For some reason, the Fourth creates a massive civic disconnect. Their penchant for setting off explosives and rockets (or letting their children do it) reflects contempt for the law and callous indifference toward their neighbors.

The South Sound, as usual, has been bombarded with neighborhood pyrotechnics again this season. The nuisance has probably been worse than average because of the warm, dry weather, which not only invites the scofflaws outdoors but also increases the likelihood of fires.
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Injuries, fires are sad scourges of 4th festivities

Charlene Peyton stands by her burned house in the Gig Harbor area. Errant fireworks ignited it while she was away last July 4. (Peter Haley / Staff photographer)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

You don’t need a calendar to know that the Fourth of July is soon upon us.

Fireworks stands have popped up like weeds all over the South Sound, and some customers are indulging in premature “celebration” – even though it’s illegal altogether in some cities and restricted in most others as to which kind of fireworks can be shot off and when.

For some folks, the Fourth – and several days before and after – is an opportunity to indulge their inner pyromaniac under the guise of being patriotic Americans. They gleefully plop down a wad of cash at fireworks stands for goods that can blow off a finger or two, put out an eye or set the neighbor’s roof on fire.

For the rest of us, though, the Fourth often means disturbed nights, frazzled nerves, fear of accidental fire, and pets that might need to be medicated and restrained so they don’t run away  in fright. Some people dare not leave town if the weather is dry, but instead stand ready with hoses in case the neighbor’s fireworks display gets out of hand.
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Tacoma gets fireworks enforcement right this year

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The City of Tacoma seems to have hit the sweet spot for controlling fireworks: a total ban, decriminalization, plenty of police on the streets.

That’s not to say the city was quiet on the Fourth of July; it clearly wasn’t, as evidenced by the 688 complaints that came in before, during and after the holiday. Compare that, though, with the 918 complaints of 2007, when the City Council started treating the Fourth’s petty pyromania as a civil infraction, not a hard-to-prosecute criminal misdemeanor.

On-the-spot citations and $257 civil fines seem to impress scofflaws more than the very unlikely prospect of conviction for setting off ladyfingers. Tacoma officers handed out 65 of those stiff tickets this year compared to 10 in 2007.

That’s not quite one citation for every 10 calls. When half the city seems to be breaking the law, and evidence literally goes up in flames, that seems a pretty good average.

It helped that the Tacoma Police Department deployed as many as 12 officers at a time against the violators. Until last year, only four were running around the city, doing their best to respond to an impossible task.
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On other NW editorial pages today

Here’s what some other opinion pages around the region found worthy of comment today:

• Tracy Warner, editorial page editor of the Wenatchee World, says the First Amendment presumably would “preclude the majority party in Congress from advancing legislation to stifle or gag potential critics, at a time when Congress and its rulers stand in general public disfavor, on the eve of an election when absent restrictions on political speech they could sustain losses, possibly severe.” Not so, he writes. Exhibit A: The DISCLOSE Act.

Susan Nielsen in The Oregonian blasts the Oregon teachers’ union for stonewalling

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