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Fire hazard higher for Independence Day 2000

"12 days of Independence fireworksIsland County residents have 12 days to use up whatever legal fireworks they purchase before red, white, and blue flames start drawing tickets and fines.It is legal to use safe and sane fireworks in Island County from noon on June 28 until noon on July 9. Those who are caught using illegal fireworks during that period will be ticketed by law enforcement as they would be during any other time of the year, said Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley. Fireworks may not be set off between the hours of 11 p.m. and 9 a.m. during the 12-day period.If Don Smith had the power to keep South Whidbey soggy during past Fourth of July holidays, he's lost it this year.The Fire Protection District 3 chief said this week that for the first time in years, the risk for brush and forest fires on the Southend has crept into the moderate range. A week of hot, sunny weather has left lawns brown and exposed soils dusty from Clinton to Greenbank. It is something even local farmers, like Clinton's Darrell Green, have foreseen since light spring rains failed to soak local soils. Green said this was evident last week while he cut and baled the last of the hay fields at his Bailey Road farm.It's dry and dusty, he said of the soil under the hay grasses.Chief Smith said South Whidbey has been in the low risk category for wildfires during the past few years. Even though this made for wet cookouts, picnics and fireworks displays, local homes, fields, and forests were safe from fires accidentally touched off by celebratory explosives.We are not quite that lucky this year.Things are drying out with the warm days we're having, Smith said.To reduce the risk of fire, not to mention the risk of injury, Smith said those celebrating Independence Day with fireworks should use only safe and sane fireworks sold at legitimate outlets. Fireworks that actually explode are illegal.If it says 'Boom,' it's illegal, Smith said.Every year, fireworks spark several fires in the state. Smith said he does not want any of those to be on Whidbey Island this year. Central Whidbey fire personnel have already responded to two wildfires this spring, so it is plain that it does not take much to set the land aflame, he said.Smith also asks that holiday revelers do not celebrate by shooting off flare guns. Flares will set off an emergency response, and could distract the fire district, local law enforcement, and even the Coast Guard from their regular duties unnecessarily."

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