Firework dangers a concern in Mariner neighborhoods

By LaVendrick Smith | Jul 11, 2012

Fireworks safety has become an “explosive” issue for Fire District 1 in the surrounding neighborhoods of Mariner High School.

The legal sale and discharge of fireworks in unincorporated Snohomish County has been a cause for concern for the district in recent years, as heavy fireworks use near Mariner have led to injury and property damage.

Fire District 1 is teaming up with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Mukilteo School District to target fireworks safety and law enforcement issues in those neighborhoods.

“A significant number of people come out of Everett, down to that area, because it’s illegal to purchase or use fireworks in the city of Everett,” said Fire District 1 Commissioner Jim Kenny. “So they come just south of the city limits and use fireworks in the unincorporated area.”

Mariner’s parking lot used to be a favorite spot for private displays on the Fourth of July. Improved patrolling of the lot has forced groups to flee to the surrounding streets to pop fireworks.

The celebrations near the school have turned dangerous.

This year, Fire District 1 responded to 15 firework related incidents. Two of them were injuries requiring transport to a hospital.

A firework discharged near a 50-year-old woman’s ear, causing hearing loss. And a 65-year-old man suffered an eye injury when he was struck in the face by an aerial firework.

Last year, someone lost a finger in a firework related injury.

Since 2005, fireworks have caused $3.25 million in property damage in Fire District 1. Fireworks were responsible for houses fires in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The extreme use of fireworks in those neighborhoods has prompted Fire District 1 commissioners to approve a resolution enforcing a countywide ban of fireworks. It is their fifth attempt to pass the resolution.

“We see [a ban] as a solution,” Kenny said. “The number of cities we serve that have fireworks bans have experienced a lower level of property loss, as well as a lower level of personal injury.”

The ban would prohibit the sale and use of fireworks in all of Snohomish County. It would apply only to private fireworks use, and would still allow for professional displays.

“[A ban] won’t end all property loss, but it will reduce the level of fireworks injuries and property lost,” Kenny said.

In Mukilteo, where fireworks are already banned, the city still faces a challenge in policing them. The Mukilteo Police Department received 75 firework related calls in the week leading up to the Fourth of July and on the holiday.

Chief of Police Rex Caldwell said it’s human nature for people to ignore the ban.

“The hardest part is that people simply are not aware that it’s illegal, or they don’t care,” Caldwell said. “Some people are just going to use fireworks no matter what, even if they have the risk of a ticket, warning, or contact with the police.”

The main concern over fireworks is safety, Kenny said. If you do discharge fireworks, stay safe by making sure they are lit under adult supervision, on asphalt or concrete, and that you have water nearby to put out any fires.

“For those who really love fireworks, we just ask that they that use them as safely as possible,” he said. “It seems like there’s always going to be some people that the fireworks get away from them, and it’s all preventable.

“We want to draw attention to that because it doesn’t have to be a warzone every Fourth of July.”

LaVendrick Smith is an intern for the Mukilteo Beacon.

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