FOLLOWUP: State has the authority to call for an emergency fireworks ban, but doesn’t think it’s needed

Following up on our Wednesday report about a petition drive in which community advocates from here and West Hill asked for an emergency ban on fireworks: County leaders told us they don’t have the authority to do anything immediate, but that the state does. We finally got a chance today to inquire with the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Deputy Fire Marshal Lysandra Davis replied, saying that only the governor has that authority, but that calling for one isn’t warranted right now. Here’s the entire reply:

Our office has received numerous inquiries on this matter, and we value and appreciate each and every one.

Because Washington is a Home Rule State, legislative authority to limit or prohibit the sale, purchase, possession, and/or use of consumer fireworks is only granted to city, municipal, and county governments. However, any ordinance adopted by a county or city has an effective date no sooner than one year after its adoption, per RCW 70.77.250 (4). Because State Fireworks Law does not provide the SFMO or any other local jurisdiction/agency the authority to temporarily ban
fireworks, even on an emergency basis, it is unlawful to do so.

The only person with the authority to issue a temporary ban on fireworks sales/usage is Governor Jay Inslee. This would be done through a State of Emergency Proclamation which normally prohibits activities that the Governor reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or public peace. In the past, when emergency proclamations have been issued during heavy wildland fires (usually occurring mid-July to August), fireworks usage and sales were already prohibited by State Fireworks Law.

The current burn ban that is in effect only applies to state forests, state parks and forestlands under Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fire protection, including Department of Fish and Wildlife lands; it does not include cities, municipalities and/or counties. This ban prohibits outdoor burning and fireworks and incendiary devices (which are never legal on DNR-protected forestlands).

While these drought conditions we are facing may be unprecedented, there is not a current statewide fire emergency that would warrant the Governor to declare a State ban on fireworks.

What I can assure you of is that the State Fire Marshal’s Office is committed to promoting fire safety and injury prevention year round with our Celebrate Safely and Legally campaign — emphasizing “personal responsibility,” especially during these extremely dry weather conditions.

So it looks like fireworks will be on sale, as planned, in unincorporated King County starting this Sunday, where the law allows their use 9 am-midnight on July 4th.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

2 Responses to “FOLLOWUP: State has the authority to call for an emergency fireworks ban, but doesn’t think it’s needed”

  1. Question Mark Says:

    The byzantine nature of these rules and authorities is truly amazing (and not in an ooh aah kind of way).

    What the Deputy State Fire Marshall failed to acknowledge is that the King County Fire Marshall *has* ordered a county-wide fire safety burn ban (since June 22). These bans are “issued by the King County Fire Marshal, in cooperation with other county and state agencies, when dry weather conditions have caused trees and other vegetation to be more susceptible to catching fire from natural conditions or human activities,” according to the King County website. [1]

    So in reality there is a Catch-22 that virtually guarantees that no fireworks ban can ever be imposed. Many folks are happy about this and many are not. As it stands, though, I don’t think any rational person can say the laws and authorities in place now make any logical sense.


  2. CleanUpWC Says:

    Can we just make it illegal like the city does? Or because we are in the county it would take effect all over King County – not just here. But seems much safer that way.
    I’ve only lived here in WC a short time but it’s like a war zone on the 4th. It’s terrible and goes on way past 11pm.