With Independence Day just around the corner, the Bonney Lake Police Department is checking in with residents to make sure they understand the new rules surrounding fireworks.
The Bonney Lake City Council passed new legislation on fireworks inside city limits in early March.
The new rules, as read in Ordinance D16-04, both tighten and loosen firework regulations in a way that allows city police to more effectively enforce these new rules.
Portions of the ordinance went into effect just after the rules were signed into law, but other rule changes won’t be enacted until February 2017.
“Although there are some changes to the 2016 and 2017 fireworks laws, it is still a day of celebration and I encourage everyone to enjoy the 4th of July with family and friends,” Police Chief Dana Powers said in a release. “However, know your surroundings, be safe, and remain within the law.”
Changes for 2016: misdemeanor to civil infraction
The biggest change residents will see regarding fireworks for the upcoming Independence Day is how the Bonney Lake Police Department is able to investigate illegal firework reports and cite people who are violating the city’s new rules.
Before the new ordinance, violating the city’s firework rules was a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail, a $1000 fine, or both.
The new rules can reduce the punishment from a misdemeanor to a class 1 civil infraction, which would result in a $550 ticket.
Although the punishment can now be more lenient, the new rules make it easier for officers to investigate and cite instances of illegal fireworks.
“The burden of proof is much less with a civil infraction than a misdemeanor,” Sgt. Ryan Boyle said in an interview. “It’s a little easier for us to write an infraction.”
Boyle put heavy emphasis on the fact that the department’s goal for this first year of rule changes is education rather than writing an infraction for everyone caught violating the new rules. There will be additional officers patrolling the city July 3, 4 and 5 for the sole purpose of investigating reports of illegal fireworks and citing repeat offenders, he said.
The new rules also allow officers to city property owners of the land where illegal fireworks are lit, or when fireworks are lit at the wrong time.
Under the old rules, officers would only cite the people who were directly responsible for lighting off an illegal firework, or lighting off fireworks outside of the legal time frame.
Boyle said this rule change is important for instances when officers cannot determine who exactly lit the fireworks, but it was obvious that fireworks were lit.
Officers still retain the ability to issue misdemeanors in more serious violation cases, like people being caught in possession of or lighting illegal fireworks, Boyle said.
Changes for 2017: time frames
Through this Independence Day and New Years, Bonney Lake residents are able to light off fireworks the same time they have been.
For Independence day, fireworks can be lit on July 3 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 4 from 9 a.m. to midnight and July 5 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
For New Years, fireworks can be lit from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 though 1 a.m. Jan. 1.
Once July 4, 2017 rolls around, the legal time frame for setting off “safe and sane” fireworks will shrink, and fireworks will only be allowed to be lit July 4 from 9 a.m. to midnight.
The time frame for New Years will not change.
What are “safe and sane” fireworks?
“Safe and sane” fireworks are also known as “consumer fireworks,” under RCW 70.77.136, which sets specific rules regarding how much explosives can be in both ground and aerial fireworks (50 milligrams and 130 milligrams respectively) when sold to consumers.
Fireworks that are allowed to be lit in Washington under certain conditions include sparklers, roman candles, mines/shells, ground spinners, cone fountains and more.
Fireworks that are illegal to purchase, possess or discharge at any time in the state include sky rockets, fire crackers, chasers and missile-type rockets.
Boyle said “safe and sane” fireworks will still be sold at booths in the city for residents to purchase around the holiday, but people with questions about their fireworks or the new rules can call the department’s non-emergency line at 253-863-2218.
Boyle added that an alternative to lighting off personal fireworks is the Tapps Island firework show, which has been a tradition in the area for several decades.
Fireworks in other cities
Enumclaw’s Chamber of Commerce is handling this year’s Independence Day celebration.
Chamber Director Troy Kelley said the chamber has raised around $10,000 for this year’s show, which is planned for 9:45 July 4 at the Southwood soccer fields.
Personal fireworks can only be discharged July 4 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Buckley doesn’t have an annual celebration, but the city allows residents to set off fireworks July 2 – July 3 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 4 from 9 a.m. to midnight and July 5 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.