LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Total ban on fireworks needed
April 24, 2012 · Updated 2:07 PM
To the editor:
I noted your article about how Island County commissioners are considering changes to the county fireworks ordinance. Since moving to South Whidbey six years ago, I have been amazed by the general lack of restrictions on fireworks and the almost total absence of enforcement of the limited fireworks restrictions that do exist. So I applaud the commissioners for their efforts to improve the situation.
But many surrounding jurisdictions simply ban fireworks due to their negative impacts on safety and noise. It is clear that many people come to Island County in an effort to avoid these bans. Further, it is clear that people purchase fireworks on native lands and bring them to Island County to set them off. This is easy to do as there is basically no real way to discern legal from illegal fireworks until they explode and risk havoc. Coupled with the almost complete lack of enforcement, this makes Island County a “go to” place for fireworks. One neighboring property owner visits once a year only for this purpose.
I believe it is time that Island County step up and recognize the following:
1. Fireworks are a safety hazard.
2. Fireworks are all too often accompanied by overindulgence in alcohol.
3. Fireworks are an ecological hazard.
4. Fireworks are often claimed to be required in order to celebrate our nation’s independence.
This is rubbish! People can celebrate in any number of less dangerous and less intrusive ways. There are plenty of organized fireworks displays that are undertaken by trained individuals with necessary precautions taken and cleanup provided. One can celebrate independence with flag displays or, can you imagine, public service. How about actually reading and discussing the governing documents and history of the country — something the majority of people cannot claim to have done. Some people seem to think that they have a constitutional right to discharge fireworks. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Anyone who lives on the South End can attest that fireworks are not only discharged on or around Independence Day. Fireworks are always set off on the New Year when they are not even legal to discharge nor can the person doing so claim to be making a patriotic display. Again, there is no hope of enforcement of the rules which now exist.
Creating an outright ban on fireworks within the county would create many benefits for those who reside here. It would cease any official encouragement of behavior that is unsafe, unpleasant for many, and unhelpful for the environment.
It is time for Island County to recognize that changes are indeed required and to follow the lead of a growing number of jurisdictions in the area. This may not be an easy thing to do. But doing the right thing is rarely easy and the sign of a true leader is one who is willing to cut against the grain.