Parts of Mid-Columbia can have fireworks

By Paula Horton, Herald staff writerJune 26, 2011 

With the Fourth of July near, many Tri-Citians will begin stocking up on fireworks to put on their own Independence Day show.

Sales and discharging of fireworks begin Tuesday in the state but only are allowed in some areas of the Tri-Cities.

Residents in Franklin County -- including Pasco -- and those in Kennewick and Prosser are banned from having fireworks of any kind.

"There are no safe and sane fireworks," said Mike Blatman, Kennewick police crime prevention specialist.

Richland, Benton City and unincorporated Benton County residents, however, can use what officials consider "safe and sane" fireworks.

Essentially, that means fireworks that stay on the ground -- fountains, wheels, illuminating torches -- and sparklers are allowed.

Anything that shoots into the sky is not. Bottle rockets, missiles and firecrackers are legal only on tribal lands.

M-80s and homemade or altered fireworks such as tennis ball bombs are illegal everywhere in the state.

West Richland has the most liberal fireworks policy in the Tri-Cities -- allowing everything the state allows, said West Richland Police Chief Brian McElroy.

"It's pretty visual, with lots of activities," McElroy said, noting that the city council has said it's important to let residents celebrate with fireworks.

The days fireworks can be discharged will be limited beginning next year, but this year it follows state law.

State law allows the sale and discharge of fireworks from noon to 11 p.m. June 28, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 29-July 3, from 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 5.

McElroy said his department has been working to educate residents about what is allowed.

"If you send something that has debris that's still burning, that creates a fire hazard," McElroy said, explaining why bottle rockets and missile-type rockets are illegal.

He also has directed officers to strictly enforce the fireworks law, including seizing illegal fireworks if they're found.

"I've increased staffing ... but I can't put an officer on every corner," McElroy said.

The challenge with enforcing the fireworks law is being able to identify which fireworks that are shot into the sky are illegal and where they came from.

"We have to be able to identify the source of it and be able to say, 'That's illegal, that's not,' " he said. "If multiple things are going off at one time, how do you determine what's illegal and legal?"

That's why education is key -- and having residents be safe and responsible.

In addition to not buying illegal fireworks, McElroy said those who are shooting off legal ones should follow basic safety rules: Don't mix alcohol and fireworks, keep spectators back, have a water supply available and water lawn and surrounding areas so there's less risk of a fire.

People also are not allowed to go to city parks or school property to shoot fireworks; they need to be on their own property. And firework debris needs to be cleaned up properly.

State fire officials said 575 fireworks incidents were reported last year and included 162 injuries; of those, 50 were children younger than 14.

Public shows in the Tri-Cities include Benton City's Fourth of July Celebrations at the Lions Club, Kennewick's River of Fire Festival Display at Columbia Park, Pasco's Grand Ole Fourth Celebration at Gesa Stadium and Prosser's Old Fashioned Fourth of July at Prosser City Park.

More information about the fireworks shows will be in Friday's AT section.

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