Fireworks could lose their sparkle in city of Langley

LANGLEY — Fourth of July fireworks sparked discussion among the Langley City Council Wednesday about banning the sparkling noisemakers within city limits.

Langley resident Shirley Jantz and Janet Hall of the WSU Extension made a presentation to the council about the danger fireworks pose to humans, animals and the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Jantz requested to ban or restrict fireworks within the city of Langley and to work with Island County to limit the amount of fireworks blown up each year.

Langley fires fewer sparklers than other areas in the county, due to its aging population, Jantz said, and collects less debris on its beaches after the Independence Day holiday than other beaches such as Double Bluff or Maxwelton Beach. Still Jantz said it’s a considerable public health and safety risk.

“Up front, fireworks are propelled by the ignition of gun powder — explosive chemicals — consisting of poisonous and combustible materials. These same toxins affect groundwater and air quality,” she said.

But the fireworks spook pets and wildlife alike and threaten the health of animals that may ingest some of the debris, Jantz added.

“I am just asking the city to look at it,” she said.

Hall said the amount of fireworks debris collected at Whidbey Island’s beaches is mind-boggling.

“Our group picked up over 2,000 pounds just between 9 and 11 a.m. at Double Bluff,” she said. “I know there were several more bags brought up after we left.”

And the trend has taken a turn for the worse.

“I lived on the island for 12 years and this year was one of the worst years,” Hall said.

Currently, Langley’s municipal code does not allow to sell fireworks within the city limits and people have to adhere to noise ordinances, but besides that the city’s rule book is wide open regarding fireworks, said Walt Blackford, city administrator.

Audience member Mary Jane Miller said she lives with about 80 animals on 25 acres just outside of Langley. She urged the council to consider a ban.

“My first Fourth of July here was gruesome,” she said.

“My poor goats, every time a rocket went off, they ran across the field and crashed into the fence,” she recalled. Her dogs were hiding on the floorboard of the car.

“I was absolutely disgusted and saddened,” she said. “I thought I had moved to a rural place.”

Miller said she called the sheriff’s office, but the deputies were backed up with more than 20 calls and told her they couldn’t get to her until later.

“I love fireworks, I think they are beautiful, it’s American,... but it’s a real crime against our animal friends,” Miller said.

The issue hit close to home for councilman Bob Waterman.

Waterman recalled how fireworks cracked his truck window last year.

Councilwoman Rene Neff said she was also concerned about the fire hazard. She said she was interested in learning more.

“I’d like to see an education component,” she said.

Hall replied that the WSU Extension could put together a educational display regarding the hazards and gear it toward the South End population.

Councilman Paul Samuelson said people need to be informed about the hazards, but it could be a touchy subject for folks that have children and enjoy their fireworks as a part of their celebration.

“It’s not just kids,” Hall joked. “It’s amazing how old teenage boys can be.”

Blackford explained that it was up to the council to discuss the issue further, but that it would be wise to consult with Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg about the reality of enforcing a ban with a small police department.

City council advised city staff to collect information regarding enforcement and impact on city staff. The council will hear the finding on Sept. 5.

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