Bonney Lake fireworks debate | Final week

Editor’s note:

Each year since the early 2000s, the issue of banning fireworks inside the Bonney Lake city limits has come before the City Council.

This year the unusually dry weather and increased danger of brush and wildfires has raised the discussion to more than just a spark and fizzle.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Justice and Municipal Building, where residents will have the opportunity to discuss whether or not the city should enact a fireworks ban.

Courier-Herald reporter Ray Still has organized an in-paper debate on the question of whether Bonney Lake should or should not ban fireworks. The three debate participants are Justin Evans and David Baus, Bonney Lake residents running for Council Position No. 2, and Karen Gower, public relations district director with TNT Fireworks.

For this issue, Evans, Baus and Gower answered specific questions posed to them by the Courier-Herald as the final debate round.

The Courier-Herald encourages our readers to participate in this debate by sending questions and comments to Ray Still, Questions and comments may also be posted to the debates online.

Read the first week and the second week of the debate by clicking the links.


Justin Evans

If the City Council passes a fireworks ban it must come with funds for enforcement for the law to be effective. What would enforcement of a ban look like? Consider how much money, resources and manpower is needed to adequately enforce a ban.

I’ve spoken with Bonney Lake Police Chief Dana Powers and was told that due to the holiday, the department is fully staffed, and then some. The cost associated wouldn’t necessarily be enforcement officers, they’re already on patrol; the officers just need the law to enforce.

Personnel resources for the Fourth of July/New Year’s aren’t where the cost burden lies, that comes from education. There will need to be training for those enforcing the ban. Those costs include the training, the trainers and the education of the public. There isn’t a set dollar amount I was able to discuss with anyone. I have reached out to Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy who recently enacted an emergency ban in her city this year, but haven’t heard back on costing figures. Whatever the costs, they’ll likely be offset by fewer East Pierce Fire & Rescue calls and any fines paid into the general fund by those cited for infractions of the measure.

The other question regarding cost is what’s the cost of not doing it? Firework damage in 2014 resulted in over $32 million worth of property damage and millions more in medical costs. Ask the parents of Shelton teen Travis Story who tragically lost his life last year as a result of fireworks what the cost of a ban would be. Robert Taylor Jr., an 11 year old boy living in Tacoma who received injuries to his head and face when a rogue firework sent him to Harborview in 2014. He was one of about 40 people treated at Harborview from July 3 – July 5. Robert had to undergo surgery to remove shrapnel from his face. Chief of trauma at Harborview Dr. Eileen Bulger said of firework injuries; “these are often life-changing injuries” and “you can lose digits on your hand, you could lose your whole hand. You could lose sight in an eye”.

These are the costs associated with not having a ban and these careless costs need to stop. I don’t want to read about the next Robert Taylor or Travis Story or any other senseless injury that could have been prevented because someone wanted to blow things up.

I’d like to thank Ray Still and the Courier-Herald for allowing me to participate in this debate. It is without a doubt a hot topic as of late and I’m honored to have been a part of it.


David Baus

The city of Bonney Lake and East Pierce Fire & Rescue spent considerable funds on fires and problems related to fireworks this year. How do you justify the expenditure of funds when the city and East Pierce are working on tight budgets?

East Pierce Fire: We all acknowledge that it was a very dry year and as a result, the fire department felt the burden.

I have a few thoughts on strategies to minimize the impact on our fire department. If the three reported structure fires were found to be caused by fireworks, and the fireworks were “legal”, bill the homeowner a $500 fee, which would probably be covered by their homeowner’s insurance policy. In the event it happened during a ‘firework ban’ period, the homeowner should bear all costs related to the public service. Unfortunately people use public resources while they perform illegal activities, they must be held financially responsible. This alone should help the fire department to reimburse financial resources spent addressing illegal activities performed by our citizens during these tough financial times.

Law Enforcement: “Bonney Lake police” reported an increase in call activity during the Fourth of July. I believe Bonney Lake police have considerably more opportunities and tools at their disposal to address any financial shortfalls by ticketing violators. Every year we see the Bonney Lake Police Department target problem areas for a week throughout the community. Applying this same idea, one week prior to the fourth, issuing citations to violators would be a potential income resource.

I have lived in two different parts of our community; my first five years were spent living on Inlet Island (we often referred to the days leading up to the Fourth of July as “war week”) the Fourth of July always started too early. The Bonney Lake Police Department should have had an “open season” on writing tickets in this part of town. Now that we have moved closer to the high school, we don’t see nor hear fireworks much before the Fourth. Unfortunately, we do have neighborhood firework actives continuing well past mid-night.

I see enforcing the firework code using law-enforcement directly reducing the amount of calls to the fire department during non-firework day’s and times. We need to educate our community on the days and hours permitted and the penalties issued to violators.

In closing, I personally was unaware of days and hours fireworks were permitted until now. This community has a great deal of pride; we all need to do our part policing ourselves and our neighbors and be mindful of the limited financial resources of our fire department yet still find a way to continue our Fourth of July celebrations enjoying our freedom while keeping it safe.

Do you think a service fee or some sort of contribution from private firework sellers should be considered by the City Council?

I believe any type of service fee would only move the firework stands out of our city limits. If there were a way to add a “firework tax” on the point of sale and direct those funds to East Pierce Fire, I would endorse it.

What size of fee, if any, would be fair? Firework stands pay a “Fireworks Retail Sale License of $75 ($25 fee and $50 nonrefundable cleaning deposit). The fee of $25 seems small, but these fees only help defer the city cost, doubling it or tripling the fee only takes money from the nonprofit origination.


Karen Gower

The city of Bonney Lake and East Pierce Fire & Rescue spent considerable funds on fires and problems related to fireworks this year. How do you justify the expenditure of funds when the city and East Pierce are working on tight budgets?

As someone who believes the truth is always best, I prefer to avoid the emotional arguments and personal attacks and let the facts speak for themselves— not political answers. It is an unfortunate fact that we had the unusually hot, dry summer here in Washington state this year. Fortunately, it is the exception not the rule. There have been more fires than usual due to every conceivable item from barbecues, cars, campfires, fire pits, lightning, you name it. I think it is key to note that you state “an increase in police calls, although no citations.” Isn’t that the logical place to start? Fine the law breakers, not the safe and sane families that are celebrating their traditional Fourth of July with their family and/or neighbors. Don’t let the few ruin it for all of the rest.

Do you think a service fee or some sort of contribution from private firework sellers should be considered by the City Council?

I don’t think it would be fair to ask the legal sellers and/or nonprofit organizations to have to bear the extra costs any more than you would charge those that sell barbecues, candles, Christmas trees, etc. to pay extra fees. I think the lawbreakers should have to pay.

I just re-read the Tacoma News Tribune’s report on fireworks-caused fires just this year between June 26-July 6, 2015. All fireworks have been banned for over 20 years and they had 54, yes that’s 54, fireworks fires—all illegal. The city of Lacey Fire Department reported to the state fire marshal a dramatic increase in fires starting in the year right after their fireworks ban.

Does anyone in Bonney Lake really want to stop the safe and sane families celebrating with state-approved, Consumer Product Safety Commission approved fireworks? Does anyone in Bonney Lake really want to stop the thousands of dollars that pour back into Bonney Lake from the nonprofit organizations that sell legal fireworks for fundraisng? Would anyone in Bonney Lake really want all that money to go to the reservations instead? And would anyone want people to make that trip to the reservations or bootleggers and bring back much more dangerous and menacing fireworks like bottle rockets, missiles, M-80s and other IEDs and explosive devices? Keep Bonney Lake more safe and more sane —enforce the current law to the fullest extent and it will be better for all Bonney Lake residents.