Mid-Columbia fireworks laws vary by county, city

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldJune 30, 2014 

Fireworks laws in the Mid-Columbia are a confusing patchwork of dos and don'ts.

And Tri-City fire officials want to make sure everyone planning on lighting fireworks in honor of the Fourth of July does so safely and legally.

It's expected to be a hot week, and fire officials are worried dry conditions and fireworks could lead to potentially dangerous fires.

Fireworks stands began opening across the state this weekend and will stay open until late July 5. There were 937 licenses to sell fireworks issued, up 5 percent from last year.

In the Mid-Columbia, fireworks can be shot off legally with some restrictions in rural Benton County, Richland, West Richland, Benton City and Burbank.

They are banned in Kennewick, Prosser, Pasco and the rest of Franklin County.

Richland and Benton City are the only cities that sell fireworks that are legal throughout Benton County, said Fire Marshal Ken Williams.

Stands are open in West Richland too, but some of those fireworks are illegal to be used in certain parts of Benton County.

The list of illegal fireworks in Richland and unincorporated parts of the county include: firecrackers, M80s, roman candles, aerial fireworks, rockets, cherry bombs, spinners, jumping jacks and any altered fireworks.

Sparkler sticks, cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, illuminating torches and wheels are allowed in Richland.

"Anything airborne or anything that jumps around is illegal," said Devin Helland, with Benton Fire District 1. "Basically, if you buy it in Richland or Benton City it's safe to set off."

Fireworks can be lit in rural Benton County from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. through July 5 and 9 a.m. to noon on July 6. They are legal until midnight on July 4.

Richland allows fireworks from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 5.

In West Richland, fireworks are allowed between 6 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and until midnight on Friday.

Fireworks are not allowed to be purchased over the internet, and no one under the age of 16 is allowed to buy or possess fireworks.

Richland police will be patrolling public parks during the week to make sure no one is lighting fireworks, said Fire Marshal Ken Hubele. Violations will result in a $250 fine and the confiscation of fireworks.

Hubele asked everyone to watch local public firework shows rather than choosing to set off their own.

"Illegal fireworks have physical, emotional, economic and environmental costs. The Richland Fire Department urges everyone to have a safe holiday by visiting a professional, permitted fireworks display," he said.

Two years ago, a 61-year-old Richland man was killed setting off fireworks at his home.

It was the third firework-related death in the Tri-Cities since the late 1980s when a baby was killed after fireworks set an apartment on fire. A firefighter also died in 1993 while fighting a fire sparked by fireworks.

Last year, there were 102 fires sparked by fireworks across the state, resulting in an estimated loss of more than $2 million dollars, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

There also were 341 firework-related injuries, including six amputations and 31 cases where patients had first-degree burns.

Helland and others cautioned that people planning on setting off fireworks have buckets of water nearby in case a fire ignites.

"It just doesn't take much right now to start a fire, especially if the winds are going," he said. "People need to know if they do start a fire with illegal fireworks that causes damage to people's property, they will be held liable."

State Fire Marshal Charles Duffy and fire officials released some easy tips that could help prevent injuries or fires:

-- Do not try and reignite a firework that would light the first time or a "dud," because it could explode.

-- Douse fireworks with water after they are set off, and put them in a metal trash can in case they rekindle.

-- Do not try to make your own fireworks.

-- Only light one firework at a time.

-- Keep at least 20 feet between you and the lit firework.

The professional fireworks display in Kennewick over the Columbia River starts at 10 p.m. and lasts around 40 minutes. It can be viewed from Columbia Park. Admission is $7 a carload.

A display at Gesa Stadium in Pasco also starts at 10 p.m. and will last about a half hour. Admission is free.

Contact your local fire department for firework-related questions or the state office at 360-596-3946.

For a full schedule of Fourth of July events in the Mid-Columbia, go to www.tricityherald.com/atomictown.

--Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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