Belllingham banned consumer fireworks five years ago, although you might not be able to infer that from activities that are prevalent on the 4th of July to a major extent or New Years Eve to a lesser one. But one might legitimately and practically ask, “Is this really about fireworks?”
My answer is no, not really.
It is about civility, respect of one another, respect of nature, and the use of the commons. Local politicians and social justice groups have launched campaigns to densify Bellingham, crowding even more people into the same space. Unfortunately, concomitant enforcement of our so-called nuisance codes intended to ease resultant conflict, including the ban on fireworks, is not infused with any of these values in the everyday practice.
In a city that constantly refers to “education” of the populace rather than that four letter word “enforcement,” the educational part is often forgotten or regulated to second tier pronouncements. Here is the totality of the city’s precautionary missive to its citizens on fireworks as we approach the 4th of July:
Public safety officials want to remind Bellingham residents and visitors that all consumer fireworks are prohibited in the City of Bellingham.
In 2014, the Bellingham City Council adopted an ordinance to ban all consumer fireworks within the City limits. Any person who violates the consumer fireworks ban will be subject to a civil infraction with a fine of up to $1,000. The minimum fine will be $250. Law enforcement and fire officials also have the authority to immediately seize fireworks that are located within the City.
In addition, devices that some call “fireworks” are actually illegal explosive devices that cannot legally be possessed anywhere in the State of Washington. Examples include M-80s or larger, cherry bombs and any improvised device such as a tennis ball bomb. Felony charges can be brought against people found guilty of possessing or discharging illegal explosives.
More details about current fireworks regulations are found in Bellingham Municipal Code 10.24.130, accessible via the City website at www.cob.org.
As in the past, education and enforcement activities are planned this year to make sure residents and visitors are aware of the consumer fireworks ban.
Take advantage of community activities
Numerous community events are planned throughout the region to celebrate Independence Day.
In Bellingham, Haggen Food & Pharmacy, Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and the Port of Bellingham are partnering to provide a free community fireworks display and festival with vendor and craft booths, a kids zone, live bands and a beer garden. The celebration is from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Zuanich Point Park, with the fireworks show starting at approximately 10:30 p.m.
Shuttle service will be available to view fireworks from Zuanich Point Park at Squalicum Harbor. With limited parking available at Squalicum Harbor, celebrants are encouraged to walk, bike or use free passenger shuttles. The free passenger shuttles will run from 1p.m. through 11 p.m. and pick up passengers at Bellingham High School, 2020 Cornwall Ave. The drop-off point will be the CityMac parking lot inside Squalicum Harbor. Event-goers will then use the promenade pedestrian path to reach the event site. For more information, visit www.haggen.com.
Granary Avenue and the Port’s parking lot on Granary Avenue will be closed to vehicles from 6 p.m. on July 4 until 6 a.m. on July 5. However, Granary Ave and Waypoint Park will be open to pedestrians. Community members wishing to view fireworks from Granary Avenue or Waypoint Park will need to walk or bike.
We encourage community members to take advantage of this event or other opportunities to celebrate our nation’s independence and enjoy large, legal fireworks displays.
Although much is devoted to enforcement in this message, the true educational part is missing: that of the rationale behind the ban that goes well beyond public safety. In fact, such rationale, if stated, would go against much of the city’s message itself as the difference between the effect of consumer fireworks vs. the officially sanctioned ones becomes irrelevant with the application of the VALUES that I stated above: civility, respect of one another, respect of nature, and the use of the commons. Fireworks simply violate them all.
So if we are going to get serious about attenuation or mitigation or elimination of sources of conflict as the inevitable cost of (as we are told) when densification takes place, let’s get serious about the true educational part of our codes. Otherwise, all citizens see are RESTRICTIONS and violation of their RIGHTS.