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Fireworks ban finds lack of support in Langley

LANGLEY — In one of his final jobs as outgoing city administrator, Walt Blackford tackled an explosive issue — fireworks.

At the last city council meeting of 2007, Blackford presented a report to the Langley City Council in response to residents’ complaints over fireworks.

Last summer, Shirley Jantz and Janet Hall complained to the council about the danger that fireworks pose to humans, animals and the Puget Sound ecosystem. They asked the council to ban all fireworks within city limits.

Currently, Langley allows common fireworks such as sparklers between 9 a.m. and midnight on the Fourth of July. City regulations prohibit fireworks sales within city limits.

Blackford’s detailed report covered noise concerns and the potential for fireworks to hurt the environment, harm animals, or cause fires, personal injuries and property damage.

Officials involved with fireworks were polled and none really pressed for a change in the city’s rules.

Police Chief Bob Herzberg said only a few complaints about fireworks come in every year. All told, there have been 21 fireworks-related complaints in the past decade.

“My feeling is that the city made a very successful move restricting fireworks to the Fourth,” Herzberg wrote. “I believe it would be more appropriate for the city to take that action when Island County prohibits the use of fireworks.”

About half of the state’s counties, most in eastern Washington, impose a full ban on fireworks.

Herzberg does support restrictions on the public use of fireworks at Seawall Park or anywhere near wooden buildings in the downtown area.

Fire District 3 Chief Dan Stout wrote that the district has responded to less than 15 fires in the last four years that could be related to fireworks. Stout agreed with Herzberg that a county-wide ban would be more appropriate.

Blackford found that no fireworks-related injuries were reported by Whidbey General Hospital in 2007.

He also reported that the city hasn’t heard from anyone that opposes a total ban.

Councilwoman Rene Neff is neutral on the ban.

“The police and fire departments didn’t feel it was a major enforcement issue,” she said.

“I did appreciate those who came forward and testified to the council on how animals can be scared when large noises are heard,” Neff added.

She said there have been only a few complaints from people who live in the city.

“I just don’t see the need for enacting more code,” she said. “I’ve lived here almost 20 years and things get very quiet on July 4th after about 10 p.m.

“I keep my cat inside that one evening and I recommend others do the same, being as nurturing as they can when the noise flares up.”

Councilman Bob Waterman has had personal experience with fireworks.

“I was surprised the report said there weren’t more complaints over the last several years,” said Councilman Bob Waterman,

“One year, I forgot to open my truck window and it shattered from the force of a large firecracker,” he recalled.

“I’m sympathetic to those who want a ban but I recognize the ability to enforce regulations can be a problem. Even though they’re restricted, the noise can go on for days.

“After the new year, we’ll be dealing with it in depth,” Waterman added. “It’s on the plate.”

The next city council meeting is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2 at city hall.

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