Letter: County needs to get tough in enforcing fireworks rules


Perhaps Island County needs to adopt the enforcement model used by environmental protection agencies, which is to “magnify the effect” of enforcement. Meaning they levy heavy fines and prosecute those who chose to violate the law, and they utilize the press to spread the word that they mean business. This sends a message to the public that violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and that heavy fines will be imposed.

If the Island County Sheriff’s Office would employ this method on violations of the existing code that bans fireworks in county parks, we might see some results in changing people’s behavior. This method would likely be effective in reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the use of fireworks in our county parks.

Just a reminder – in 1991 the county commissioners adopted fireworks code prohibiting the use of fireworks in all county parks. The county sheriff has admitted publicly that some Island County parks can have 300 to 400 people on the beach on the 4th of July partying and setting off fireworks. The sheriff has also acknowledged publicly that people have been setting off fireworks in county parks for the last 30 years.

Why did the County Commission ban fireworks in county parks and then chose to look the other way? Why are the sheriff and commissioners opposed to raising the violation fee and issuing citations in an effort to deter fireworks activity in county parks? The current violation fine is $250; clearly the fine has not proved to be a deterrent as folks are willing to spending thousands of dollars to purchase fireworks.

Citizens have become disheartened as their pleas for enforcement in our county parks, as well as phone calls to the sheriff’s office and emails and testimony at commissioners meetings, has had no effect. County government continues the state “the problem is so out-of-control that we have little or no ability to get this situation under control.” To complicate matters further, all three county commissioners are running for election or re-election this year – unfortunately this means they are more politically unlikely to engage in a controversial issue like fireworks code enforcement.

The grassroots environmental public advocacy group, Citizens for Safe and Humane Fireworks of Island County, has a solution: close all the county parks July 3-5, from dusk to dawn as is already legally mandated, and station a county Parks Department employ, in uniform, or a sheriff’s deputy, at county parks to enforce the closure of the park before people start to gather on the beaches. Keep the county parks closed on the 4th of July holiday until an effective enforcement plan has been developed.

Last month, two of our members met with Sheriff Rick Felici and he expressed interest in researching this concept. As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

This is an environmental problem that needs to be addressed now. Island County’s streams, lakes, beaches, air, and water quality are being polluted from a variety of sources, including the toxic particulates in fireworks.

Lee McGuire

Jackie Lasater