Get caught with illegal fireworks in Tacoma, and it will cost you. New law expected soon

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Getting caught with illegal fireworks in Tacoma is about to get more expensive.

Tacoma City Council on Tuesday moved to increase the penalty on the illegal use of fireworks from a Class 2 civil infraction to a Class 1 civil infraction. In other words, those caught using illegal fireworks within city limits face double the fine they have in the past.

Right now, violators face a base fine of $125, up to $257 in added surcharges.

Under the new law, that doubles to $250, up to $513 in any added charges.

Tacoma City Council member Lillian Hunter, who brought the proposal, hopes it’ll make people think twice about using illegal fireworks.

Fireworks have been illegal in Tacoma since 1992, Hunter said, but little has been done to deter people from using them.

“Fireworks can be heard citywide year round and gets more prevalent as it gets closer to July,” she said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Not only can fireworks upset military veterans and people’s pets, Hunter said, but they pose a fire danger to the city.

“Last summer there was a proliferation of fires,” Hunter said.

From June 26, 2020 through July 6, 2020, the Tacoma Fire Department responded to 122 fires. Of these, 32 were fireworks-related and resulted in damage over $480,000, according to city records. During the same reporting period, TFD treated six fireworks-related patients.

Despite the increased fine, Hunter said the expectation isn’t to increase enforcement but to deter people from using them in the first place.

As one member of the public said during public comment, the fine will add a bit more “teeth” to the law.

“For too long, even though it’s been illegal since 1992, this law has been largely ignored, and last year was pretty horrific,” the commenter said.

In addition to the increased fines, City Council approved a $1,500 allocation for public outreach to residents near Alling Park. Neighbors there say they’ve been trying to address the rampant illegal use of fireworks around the July Fourth holiday every year.

City Council will vote on second reading of the ordinance on June 8, after which it will become effective immediately.

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.