Thurston County commissioners vote to ban fireworks during burn bans

Tonight, big debate as the Thurston County Commission considers major restrictions on Fourth of July celebrations.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Thurston County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks in times of extreme fire danger, like much of Western Washington experienced last year.

The ordinance will take effect next year in unincorporated Thurston County, and it would require an agreement of fire chiefs across Thurston County to determine risk of fires during extended periods of dry weather.

The board also weighed the option of banning all consumer fireworks, something County Commissioner Bud Blake said was a bad idea, since it would impact countless non-profit groups and charities that rely on the income generated by fireworks sales.

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While the board was hearing passionate arguments from people on both sides of the issue, Shelley Westall was unpacking a truckload of fireworks to sell in her family's tent Tuesday morning.

"There's a lot of charitable organizations and a lot of businesses that are putting out the money up front in order to pre-purchase their products," said Westall. "They invest starting right after the 4th of July, and if sales are banned, a lot of charities could lose tens of thousands of dollars if a ban took effect. By taking that away, you're hurting us," he said.

Tim Dean told the board fundraisers like car washes can't compare to fireworks sales.

"We would have to charge $250 per car to make up for the amount of money we make selling fireworks for seven days," he said.

Several of those supporting a ban said the risk of fire and injury -- along with the noise, needs to be controlled.

"I dread the 4th of July," said Carolyn Krall, who addressed the board while holding her toddler. "We dread the noise. Last year, I dreaded the baby waking up and crying the entire day."

After the vote to have the option to declare an emergency ban, Tumwater Fire Chief  Scott LaVielle told KIRO 7 the board "got it right."

"It gives us the option to consider, based on extreme fire danger, to make the decision to ban fireworks, as much as we would hate to do that," he said.