Our Voice: Risk of personal fireworks include death, destruction

July 1, 2014 

We got lucky last Fourth of July, and the reckless use of fireworks didn't cause any major fires, injuries or deaths in the Mid-Columbia.

Let's go for two in a row.

That's probably wishful thinking. Last year's Independence Day was highly unusual for the region. A year earlier, a 61-year-old Richland man was killed while setting off fireworks at his home for family and friends.

At least two other fireworks-related deaths happened in the Tri-Cities in recent history. In the late 1980s, a baby was killed after fireworks set an apartment on fire. A firefighter died in 1993 while fighting a fire sparked by fireworks.

Injury and destruction are far more common than fatalities. Last year, there were 341 firework-related injuries statewide, including six amputations and 31 cases where patients had serious burns. The Office of the State Fire Marshal also recorded 102 fires sparked by fireworks, resulting in an estimated loss of more than $2 million.

In the Tri-Cities, personal fireworks have burned homes, an apartment building, the Richland Salvation Army building, Badger Mountain Elementary and a grocery store in past years.

Fireworks are fun, but the risks are high.

Your best bet is to leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals. The daylong River of Fire celebration in Columbia Park culminates with professional fireworks display at 10 p.m. Admission is $7 a carload.

A fireworks display at Gesa Stadium in Pasco also starts at 10 p.m. Admission is free.

If you can't bear the thought of observing Independence Day without playing with fire, at least follow the law.

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

Sparkler sticks, cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, illuminating torches and wheels are allowed in rural Benton County, Richland, West Richland, Benton City and Burbank.

Fireworks that are illegal everywhere include firecrackers, M80s, roman candles, aerial fireworks, rockets, cherry bombs, spinners and jumping jacks.

"Anything airborne or anything that jumps around is illegal," Devin Helland, of Benton Fire District 1, explained.

The reason is obvious. We live in an arid area, and the forecast for the holiday weekend calls for hot, dry weather. Blasting a flaming object into the air is foolish in any case but doubly so in the Mid-Columbia.

Please be safe and legal this Fourth of July.

If you choose to do otherwise, you'll probably get away with it. Police don't have the time or resources to chase fireworks and issue tickets

But if you are caught, the fine is $250.

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