How not to start a fire this Fourth of July

PETER SINCLAIR | Evergreen reporter

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Today marks the opening of several fireworks stands in Pullman, but it’s illegal to discharge those fireworks at any time before July 3.

The Pullman Police Department has advised that discharging fireworks outside designated time periods may result in a $100 civil penalty. Fireworks may legally be discharged on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on the Fourth of July from 9 a.m. to midnight.

“Those found with illegal fireworks, or discharging fireworks outside of the allowable time periods, can expect a citation,” Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins wrote in a press release.

Fireworks for personal use will not be allowed in Sunnyside Park during the community celebration on the Fourth.

“Make sure you purchase your fireworks from an authorized vendor,” Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said, noting that all the fireworks for sale in Pullman are “safe and sane.”

Police have inspected the local vendors and determined they are selling only legal fireworks. It’s illegal to purchase fireworks over the internet in Washington state, so they must be purchased from those vendors during a limited period.

Additionally, state law bans the use of firecrackers, bottle rockets, rockets with fins, fireworks with sticks or fins, M80s, M100s, cherry bombs and several other types of explosives.

“The two main offenders are bottle rockets and firecrackers,” Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said. “It is illegal to have them in your possession.”

Heston said he encourages residents to respect their neighbors by using fireworks that aren’t excessively loud and by cleaning up the mess afterward, especially when lighting them in public spaces.

No major fires occurred in Pullman last Independence Day, but police and the fire department responded to several calls for minor grass fires and fireworks being used after midnight.

“The majority of these fires are caused by people putting fireworks into the trash without soaking them in water first,” Heston said. “There can still be hot powder inside fireworks, which can light a garbage can on fire.”

Fire departments and hospitals across the state reported 102 fires and 239 injuries last year to the state fire marshal’s office. Of those injuries, 51 were caused by devices that are illegal in Washington state.

Tennant said Pullman Police responded to 24 fireworks complaints between June 28 and July 6 last year, issuing three criminal citations. He said the department will “proactively respond to calls and look for violations” this year.

As fireworks are illegal at all schools in the Pullman School District, officers are actively patrolling school grounds in search of violations.

Jenkins urged residents to supervise children 14 years old and younger and to set clear boundaries regarding use of fireworks.

“Personal fireworks require personal responsibility,” he added.

The police and fire departments will have officers present at the celebration in Sunnyside Park to educate the public about fireworks safety.