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Oh what a night, the bombs bursting in air!
It happens every year at this time. Your friends or coworkers ask “how was your Fourth of July?” Generally, it opens a flood gate of rants, complaints and emotions on how our country’s birthday celebration has gotten out of control.
You know it’s coming as the days of June wind down. You cringe as the fireworks stands start to pop up a week before the Fourth, in many cases two to three per block. They are licensed stands authorized to sell legal consumer fireworks.
There are local regulations and state laws concerning the discharging of fireworks. But, it seems to me it’s getting a little out of control.
If there was a space shuttle currently in orbit, an exchange between mission crewmembers might go like this.
“Looks like they’re having a big-time Fourth celebration in Kitsap County, Ralph. Look out the window at that huge smoke plume rising.”
For the record, I have nothing against legal fireworks being set off with proper safety precautions and one other factor, common sense.
Fireworks obtained on tribal land are, of course, to be discharged on tribal land and not in local communities. And the foundation-shaking M80s, M100s, cherry bombs and homemade explosive devices are outright illegal and a felony if you’re caught in possession of them.
In advance, fire districts, local and county law enforcement officials urge citizens to be careful and responsible.
With mid-80s temperatures, dry conditions and adding fireworks into the mix, firefighters were a bit jumpy during the “red flag warning” for elevated fire danger that ended at midnight Sunday in most of Western Washington. But, no, we still go crazy.
There must be a memory-link to our brains about the second verse of the “Star Spangled Banner.” You know ... “The rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air.” It must give certain individuals the go-ahead signal to cause great harm to others with fireworks. It’s not enough to toddle down to the local areas that have professionals setting off an orchestrated and safe fireworks show, we have to raise havoc on nearly every block and rural area of the county.
I spent an hour before dusk, watering down my front and back yards and splashing a bit up on the roof for safety’s sake. Bottle rockets and other similar devices have in the past landed in my yard and elsewhere from a block or two over. Those are the people who just don’t care. They launch something, watch it go up and say “ooooh,” then proceed to their next ignition sequence, not caring what happened to the previous one or its trajectory.
There also are the idiots in pickup trucks driving through neighborhoods setting off spinners, bottle rockets and sky rockets from the bed as they hurtle by, knowing all too well it’s way past dusk and nobody can see their plate or truck color to report them.
And while people have the right to spend their money on what they want, the hidden costs to innocent people continues to rise. In advance, pet owners have to visit their veterinarians to purchase medications to calm their cats and dogs, as they hear these explosions at twice to three times the frequencies we hear them, causing many to run away or hide and shake all night.
There are countless reports of brush fires, in fact, Bremerton Fire Department this year responded to five brush call fires in a scant 24-minute period on the Fourth of July, no doubt induced by an errant type of firework. There were more than 140 calls to 911 throughout the county for fireworks abuse, noise and brush fires. After 11 p.m., there were more than 50 calls to county 911 right through 4 a.m., complaining of excessive fireworks. Very few people got a good night’s sleep. And when you did doze off around 2 a.m., or so, just as things calmed down, out in the deep rural areas of the county a mortar or M80 goes off reverberating up and down the Hood Canal and across the county that everyone felt and heard.
City and county budgets are tight in this down economy and putting enough law enforcement officers on the road and firefighters on standby is not an easy task. Meanwhile, the 911 calls come in, each person calling, expecting a response to fireworks rowdiness. While others are facing life-threatening fires in a field, yard or dwelling. Then you can add in the countless ambulance calls or hospital ER visits for burned hands or other extremities caused by the careless handling of fireworks.
So what are we to do? Each year, it comes up for discussion and people rant for a week or two after the Fourth of July, but it fades into the background until another Fourth of July nears. Sure there are outright bans in other counties and states, but it still goes on to a certain degree. Do you ban all sales of fireworks, no matter how harmless? That’s probably not going to happen as the fireworks industry has special interest groups. Fraternal and service organizations, even high school clubs raise needed funds for future events through fireworks stands and their receipts. The tribal reservations have their rights to sell their fireworks on their land as well. There are rules, but it seems there is a large group that doesn’t want to follow them and, in fact, snub them because they know law enforcement can’t respond to all calls or be everywhere at once.
It’s the reckless people who are not celebrating this country’s birthday, but rather using it for an excuse to just blow something up.
It’s too bad there isn’t a crime code for being dumb and stupid. The jail would be full.
Fred Miles Watson is a writer for the Northwest Navigator, the Bremerton Patriot’s sister publication