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Working for safe, legal Independence Day celebrations in 2013

Celebration by Rochelle Wallis

By Bellingham Fire Chief Roger Christensen and Bellingham Police Chief Cliff Cook

In response to community and City Council concerns about illegal fireworks, the Bellingham Fire and Police departments are increasing education and enforcement activities this year to help us all enjoy a safe, legal Independence Day.

Our departments are working together to help Bellingham residents understand the fireworks rules that apply for this year. For example, we are providing additional emphasis patrol teams from June 28 through July 5. These teams of fire inspectors and police officers will circulate in neighborhoods, respond to 9-1-1 calls, provide education about the Bellingham fireworks code, and take enforcement actions for violations of those codes.

These steps are in addition to the work we do with retail fireworks stands in Bellingham, inspecting and educating the people who run them, so that their operations are safe and legal, and so that they can be advocates for appropriate use of legal fireworks.

2013 fireworks time restrictions

Fireworks stands open in Bellingham on June 28, with sales allowed through July 4. City residents should only purchase from licensed, permitted fireworks stand within the city. We do not inspect or license stands located outside the city, and many sell fireworks that are prohibited within the City.

The Bellingham fireworks code states it is unlawful to discharge consumer fireworks at any time except on July 4, between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight.

City residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 if fireworks are being discharged in their neighborhoods before or after July 4, or if illegal fireworks are being discharged at any time.
2013 legal and illegal fireworks

The City permits the possession, use and discharge of some consumer fireworks on July 4:

 More details about current fireworks regulations can be found in the Bellingham Municipal Code on the City website. Fireworks safety tips can be found on the City website as well.

Call 9-1-1 for fireworks complaints

City residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 if fireworks are being discharged before or after July 4, or if illegal fireworks are being discharged at any time.

We work hard to enforce these laws and hold offenders accountable. We expect our circulating teams to make a difference in fireworks being used at the wrong time or illegal devices being used.

Even with teams circulating in neighborhoods, however, we simply cannot be everywhere at once. Also, because an officer must personally witness inappropriate fireworks use before taking action, it is often difficult for us to hold people accountable.

Regardless of these realities, please call 9-1-1 if you experience fireworks violations. This helps us know where the problems are, so we can send our patrol teams to the most troublesome locations. It also allows us to collect information to use for future education and enforcement efforts, especially once the total ban takes effect in 2014.

The Bellingham City Council recently adopted a ban on the sale and use of personal fireworks within city limits, beginning in 2014. The one-year delay is required by state law, which means current requirements remain in place for this year.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation. We look forward to a safe, legal 2013 Independence Day!

Published:  June 28, 2013

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