Snohomish County Fire District 1 officials are concerned about injuries, property damage and high emergency call volumes experienced over the July 4 weekend as the result of heavy fireworks use.
“As the largest and most urbanized fire district in the county, we want to make citizens and elected officials aware of the impact fireworks are having,” said David Chan, chairman of the Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners.
On July 4, firefighters responded to more than 20 emergency calls related to fireworks use in the Fire District 1 service area, which includes unincorporated south Snohomish County, Brier, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway. The district spent more than $5,000 for extra staffing to handle the increased call volume.
“Firefighters had a very busy night. Most of the fireworks-related incidents occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight,” said Fire Chief Ed Widdis. “The majority involved trees and bushes on fire – some in close proximity to homes and buildings.”
In a neighborhood near Mariner High School south of Everett, an explosion knocked a 4-foot-by-4-foot hole in the side of a condominium at 10:42 p.m. No one was home and there were no injuries.
Fireworks also caused more than $10,000 damage to a portable toilet at McCollum Park.
In Fire District 1, property damage due to fireworks use has totaled more than $3.25 million over the past five years. “We didn’t lose any homes this year, but we had a couple of very close calls,” Widdis said.
Fire District 1 crews also treated three men for fireworks injuries on July 4. A 21-year-old man lost a finger when a firework exploded in his hand. A 50-year-old man sustained eye and face injuries as he was lighting a mortar. Both were taken to area hospitals for further treatment. Firefighters also treated another 50-year-old man who was struck in the back with a firework.
Fire District 1 commissioners continue to support a countywide ban on all fireworks except professional displays. Fireworks are already banned in three of the jurisdictions served by Fire District 1: Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway. Mountlake Terrace and Woodway had no fire calls related to fireworks use. Edmonds had two fireworks-related calls – both small grass fires.
“Bans are working in these communities. We would like to see the Snohomish County Council extend the same protection to the citizens in unincorporated areas,” Chan said. “We have citizens in these neighborhoods who tell us they won’t leave their homes on July 4 out of fear that an errant firework will destroy their property. A ban will restore their sense of security, reduce injuries and cut property losses. I think all of us still can enjoy fireworks if we leave it to the professionals and watch the public display to celebrate the true spirit of the Fourth of July.”