After being stuck inside during quarantine for a few months, it should come as no surprise that folks may want to blow off a little steam this Independence Day by blowing up some consumer-grade explosives.
So, like every year, here’s your guide to Fourth of July ordinances in your local city.
Enumclaw is one of the stricter cities on the Plateau, only allowing fireworks to be set off between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on July 4. For those who are stocking up munitions for future celebrations, it should be noted Enumclaw does not allow fireworks on New Year’s or any other holiday.
Rules are slightly more relaxed in Black Diamond, where fireworks can be discharged between 9 a.m. and midnight, also only on July 4.
Unlike its neighbors to the south, Buckley allows fireworks between 9 a.m. and midnight on Independence day and New Year’s.
Those living in unincorporated King County are limited to setting off fireworks between 9 a.m. and midnight on July 4; unincorporated Pierce County residents, however, are able to legally discharge fireworks between July 1 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 4 from 10 a.m. to midnight, and finally, July 5 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., but only when the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday.
Despite these regulations, though, it seems likely even more people than usual are going to be participating in the revelry this year.
According to a June 23 NBC News article, firework sellers expected between a 20 to 50 percent decrease in sales this year due to the coronavirus lockdowns. Instead, “stores have seen sales soaring more than 200 percent in some locations.”
The article noted that Phantom Fireworks, a national chain of firework retailers, saw a 15 percent sale increase nationally.
These increases in sales appear to be accounting for police departments in large cities, like Boston or New York City, seeing a 2,300 percent and 20,000 percent increase in firework complaints respectively over the previous year, The Hill reported (NYC had 54 complaints through June 21 last year, while first responders have already answered more than 11,000 calls this year). Other news outlets have added that the increase in complaints could be affected by more people staying home during quarantine.
According to Larry Farnsworth, the media contact for the National Fireworks Association, he couldn’t say exactly how much sales may have increased due to COVID-19 and quarantine, but mentioned that “it’s an exciting time if you’re in the fireworks industry… I don’t ever want to say that it’s going to be a record year, but if the trend continues, we’ll have a very good year, and we’ll beat what we did last year.”
According to The Hill’s June 25 article, the firework industry’s revenue in 2019 exceeded $1 billion; Farnsworth was quoted in this article, saying that one of the AFA’s members had more sales this past Memorial Day than the last four years combined.
In his interview with the Courier-Herald, Farnsworth added that the quarantine is likely boosting sales, but that two other variables have led to increased revenue for the industry for the last five or six years.
“Around the country, there’s been a massive trend that firework shows have been cancelled — some of the bigger display shows,” he said. Additionally, “when the Fourth of July falls on a weekend, which it does this year, we always see an increase in sales.”
According to Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, “of the 16,000 Independence Day fireworks displays that typically occur nationwide annually… only a scant few will occur this year” due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, a May 27 press release reads. Heckman added that the APA expects the roughly “150 small family businesses” that make up the American firework display industry will lose 80 percent of their income this year.
The APA reported the display firework industry made about $375 million in 2019, and has been steadily increasing from $167 million in 1999. The APA also tracks consumer firework revenue, reporting that it’s been consistently between two or three times more than display firework revenue for the last 20 years.
It’s unclear whether this year’s increased sales are happening at physical locations or over the internet, but the Washington State Patrol warned the public this year that fireworks cannot be legally purchased and shipped to a private home or anywhere else but a licensed and permitted fireworks stand.
For additional rules about purchasing fireworks online, you can contact the State Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-596-3020 or visit www.wsp.wa.gov/fireworks.
With the possibility of more locals organizing their own Independence Day fun and first responders being potentially busier answering firework complaints or injuries this year, the Courier-Herald would like to remind everyone to have a safe holiday.
Please have a “designated lighter” — because alcohol and explosives shouldn’t mix — and keep a source of water, be it a hose or bucket, close at hand.
The WSP also recommends never lighting fireworks in your hands, attempt to re-light a firework that fails to detonate, or throw fireworks, as well as collecting all spent fireworks after allowing them to sit for 20 minutes and fully submerging them in water for 10 minutes.
According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, there were 331 reports of fireworks-related injuries in 2019. Of those, 297 happened around July 4, and the majority of injuries were caused by people holding fireworks while they were lit or standing to close once they were lit.
This is up from last year, where 301 injury reports were made. Additionally, 92 firework-related fires were reported in 2018; most of the fires were classified as wildland or vegetation fires.