This 4th of July will be the first celebrated under the oppressive miasma of pandemic. Bellingham’s prohibition of consumer fireworks has been in effect for six years now with mixed results, although city hall will say that calls reporting illegal fireworks are down. Calls to police measure the caller’s response to illegal use be it anger, frustration, resignation or just plain grumpiness. However, call volume does not reveal actual use of these devices, which is more difficult to calculate. As the aphorism says, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Many residents just give up trying to report use, since police response options seem to be very limited. If the police officer does not see it or hear it, then it just did not happen for purposes of enforcement, unless there was clear possession, property damage, or injury.
From Bellingham, one has to merely drive into the county or the local reservations to buy fireworks. There should be a county-wide ban or, better yet, a state prohibition. Without either, Bellingham remains an island awash with illegal products. Make no mistake, fireworks are munitions because they are deadly. We also banned them because of the noise and pollution and what that meant to those in fragile physical or mental health, especially our war veterans who did not need us to recreate the sounds of a battlefield for family enjoyment. We did it also for the wildlife and for our pets all of which are terribly affected by the noise. Wildlife bolts into roadways endangering themselves and passing vehicles. Pets run away or spend hours cowering under beds. All so gratuitous.
The Guardian reports a tremendous surge in consumer fireworks during our period of pandemic confinement. (“Going off: US cities see explosion in use of fireworks”)
“The New York Times attributed the spike in explosions to, “a release after months of boredom and seclusion in cramped apartments,” as well as “a celebration of hard-fought strides made during the demonstrations, and a show of defiance toward the police.” Other than sparklers, fireworks are illegal in New York.”
“Usually there’s one week before July 4th where it’s like a mad rush,” he said. “But that level of activity is happening now. Everyone is buying radically: they’re bored, and they have nothing to do at night. Fireworks fill in that little void instead of sitting at home and watching TV.”
Yes, people get bored and often lose judgement. Loss of judgement brings on accidents and injury, at times extremely severe, as depicted of the teen in the photo at the top of his article or the photo of the hand at left. And these are not the worst of photos of injuries from fireworks. Burned children, empty eye sockets, missing hands, destroyed faces. These gruesome injuries and death even happen to “professional pyrotechnic experts”, such as they are called. “He who plays with fire, gets burnt.”
We can avoid the use of consumer fireworks in Bellingham to a great extent by reminding our neighbors that these deadly devices are against the law and that they can maim and kill. Send a copy of this article to people you know. Post it on social media even for those who live elsewhere.
We have enough to worry about with this deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Skip the fireworks. Use the time to explain to children the meaning of our Independence Day. Have a discussion about freedom.