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Fire board backs ban -- News roundup

Bainbridge fire commissioners voiced support Wednesday for a proposed county ballot measure banning personal-use fireworks.

Chief Jim Walkowski urged commissioners to back a vote on the ban, citing the rising rate of brush fires, property damage and injuries caused by fireworks. Responding to these emergencies has strained departments in the area, he added.

“North Kitsap and Poulsbo have been particularly affected,” he said. “Their call volume has been absolutely incredible.”

Area fire chiefs would like to see county commissioners approve an advisory vote on November’s ballot to gauge public support for the ban. The fire commission’s action Wednesday only endorses a public vote and does not officially advocate a ban.

While Bainbridge fire commissioners unanimously supported an advisory vote, Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed strong reservations.

“Instead of 28 cops, we’ll need 128 to bust all the people coming across the bridge with illegal fireworks,” he said.

The ban would be difficult to enforce unless repressive measures were undertaken, he said.

“Unless we erected barricades and strip-search everyone, it’s an effort in futility,” he said. “Draconian, police-state measures are some things we don’t want to get into.”

Judy Hartstone, executive director of the Bainbridge Progressive Animal Welfare Society, praised the proposed ban.

“Dogs are jumping out of second floor windows, cars and out of their skin because of fireworks,” she told commissioners.

PAWS received about 60 calls reporting found or lost dogs in July. A typical month’s call volume is around 35, she said. The number of lost cats jumped from an average of 18 to about 40 in July.

Commissioner Glenn Tyrrell said a ban might also reduce litter on the island.

“Having lived on a lake, I’m familiar with the post-Fourth-of-July mess.”

Walkowski estimates most island residents would support a fireworks ban. He said his department has received many calls over the years urging tighter firework restrictions.

Opposition to the ban would largely come from the Suquamish tribe and fireworks distributors, he said.

While the ban would not restrict firework sales on reservations, it could dampen income. Up to half of all tribal family-owned businesses on the Suquamish Reservation depend on firework sales, said tribal spokesperson Leonard Forsman on Tuesday.

“It’s an important part of the reservation’s economy,” he said. “It provides seasonal jobs for youths and is the primary source of income for many families.”

But many people enjoy fireworks too much to let a ban get in the way, Forsman said.

“There are a lot of bans around Washington and people seem to still buy fireworks,” he said. “Fireworks are an American tradition. I’m not sure this ban will stop people from purchasing them.”

– Tristan Baurick

Volunteer for local schools

The Bainbridge Island School District is seeking parents and other interested community volunteers to participate on a variety of school district advisory and program review committees for the 2004-05 school year.

Committee vacancies are anticipated on these advisory committees: Instructional Materials Committee; Title VII Indian Education Parent Committee; Multicultural Advisory Committee; K-12 Fitness Program Review Committee; K-12 Social Studies Program Review Committee; K-12 Art Program Review Committee; Health Education Advisory Committee; Special Education Program Council.

All groups include parent, community and staff representation and meet on a regular basis during the school year.

Volunteer applications are available at the School District office or any of the public school offices. To request an application by mail or email, call Judy Kornbau at 780-1071 or jkornbau@bainbridge.wednet.edu.

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