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Voters to see fireworks ban advisory vote

Complaints, safety concerns result in call for ban on fireworks by fire marshals.

A countywide fireworks ban will be put to the voters this fall, a decision that could change how Kitsap celebrates Independence Day.

The ballot measure will be an advisory, with no legislative consequence.

Instead, the results will be used to gauge public opinion as to how – or whether – to enact such legislation. It would be up to Kitsap County Commissioners and councils in the incorporated cities to decide whether to go ahead with a ban.

Kitsap County Fire Marshal Derrick Crawley, who presented the proposal to the county commissioners at their regular Monday meeting, said the ban could outlaw private use of all fireworks aside from licensed professionals, meaning the days of private displays such as the random fireworks action along Bainbridge Island’s Rich Passage, would be over.

Crawley said the reason for instituting a ban included the fire potential in dry conditions, the effect on pets, and the numerous complaints that arise when a neighbor discharges fireworks.

He acknowledged enforcement would be difficult, due to how the practice has become a key part of an important national holiday.

Bainbridge fire officials have given tentative backing to an outright fireworks ban, including the the common “safe and sane” variety for sale at community stands.

Fire crews in North Kitsap and other areas have been overwhelmed by the volume of fireworks-related calls, officials said, while there have been reportes of injuries and blazes on Bainbridge Island.

Last week, at the urging of fire commissioners, the Bainbridge Island City Council voted unanimously to support a non-binding advisory ballot, while council members in Poulsbo did likewise.

At the same time, several council members said the issue could be tough to sell to the public, given the popularity of fireworks among many youths and adults alike.

Crawley said such a ban would probably not affect fireworks businesses located on tribal lands, but could prevent transportation of the items off of the reservation.

Those involved in the fireworks business as well as tribal officials do not favor such a ban.

Said Suquamish Tribe spokesman Leonard Forsman, “Other municipalities have enacted these bans; it hasn’t had much effect on the sales of fireworks on the reservation. Fireworks represent a celebration of independence and are a part of American culture. And these are small, seasonal businesses that provide jobs and opportunities for families so they can buy school clothes for their kids or pay for summer vacation.”

One of the most prominent businesses, run by Georgia George on route 305 for 25 years, makes a significant economic contribution through its employment of 60 people for a six-week period, according to George.

She said her business provides training for people who learn sales techniques and apply them in other areas.

Her employees are also cognizant of fireworks safety and are able to spread that particular message.

George feels to ban fireworks would be unfair to most users, who discharge them responsibly.

“The people who set off fireworks irresponsibly are like people who abuse alcohol or drugs,” she said. “The industry shouldn’t take a hit for consumer negligence.”

George thinks the advisory initiative will be defeated.

“Fireworks on July Fourth have become a tradition,” she said. “People like to see a colorful display. But a lot of them hate big crowds and would prefer to have a small, family-oriented gathering.

“It’s not fair,” she said, “to penalize the community for what a few people have done.”

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