Only 8 protest fireworks show

It was supposed to be a happy occasion — but a few of the people not invited to a wedding reception over the weekend did not feel the love.

Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley said a Saturday night fireworks show in Freeland reinforces his decision to halt all fireworks except those scheduled for New Year’s and the Fourth of July.

While the 8 noise complaints received from South Whidbey residents did not reach the volume of calls for previous, out-of-season fireworks shows, they were still more than he thought the sheriff’s office would receive for the highly publicized event.

“I didn’t expect that many,” Hawley said Monday. “Obviously it did cause some problems.”

According to Jan Smith, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, one of the most unsettling 911 calls came from a startled resident on Vesel Court in Freeland. The street was the site of a gunshot double murder and suicide in 2002, and Smith said at least one neighbor devastated by the tragedy was alarmed by the loud fireworks they had not known were going to occur.

“I think they’re naturally skittish,” Smith said. “It’s that time of year when fireworks are not expected to be heard.”

She said with the Island County Board of Commissioners unanimously overturned Sheriff Hawley’s denial of the 10-minute fireworks show Sept. 20. Under the terms of the decision was the agreement that the fireworks show would begin around 7:45 p.m. Also agreed was a representative for LeRoy “Mick” Olsen of M.O.C Fireworks would advise Island County 911 dispatchers prior to the display that it was beginning. M.O.C. Fireworks did place an ad in The South Whidbey Record Oct. 6 giving prior notice of the show.

According to Smith, the show began around 7 p.m. with no warning it was about to start.

Hawley said the calls received cost the Island County Sheriff’s Office more money than it had for M.O.C. Fireworks to apply for the $10 county fireworks application.

According to Smith, in the half an hour surrounding the fireworks display, emergency units were very busy without the additional call load. Emergency units in the county made 82 radio log entries, with 12 other incidents taking place with precedence over the fireworks complaints — including one collision, one malicious mischief complaint, one weapons complaint and one marine incident.

“To me this was a needless impact,” Smith said.

On Tuesday, Olsen said a call had been made to Island County 911 dispatchers 10 to 15 minutes before the show began. He also said his permit for the fireworks allowed him to ignite the firework show between 7 and 8 p.m. He said they began the show at 7:05, and it lasted 8 and a half minutes.

“I haven’t heard one negative thing about it,” he said.

Olsen said about 150 people lined up on the beach near Nichols Brothers Boat Builders to watch the fireworks show.

“We got a roar of approval from them,” he said.

Prior to the event, the county’s three commissioners said the Saturday show would be a test case for allowing out-of-season fireworks. If there were complaints, the commissioners said they might hold public hearings to decide whether a county-wide ordinance is needed to limit the times at which fireworks shows will be allowed.

Kirk Francis, who heard the fireworks from his home in Langley, said he hopes the Saturday fireworks show will prompt a modification of the county’s noise ordinance pertaining to fireworks — which generally allows some types of loud blasts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. He said advertising the event did not make the fireworks any quieter and still upset both his family and their pets.

“If it’s a private party, why do we have to go?” he said.

Francis said he is not against fireworks, but opposes the amount of disturbance it creates for area residents, pets and wildlife.

“The issue is the noise,” he said.

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