Another round of explosions

You haven’t really felt close to death until you find

yourself in the proximity of a Suquamish fireworks stand, as giddy customers set off rockets in the parking lot. A single errant projectile, one muses, and the Fourth of July would come early and in unusually fulsome display.

We have no idea whether such scenes are commonplace, and hope for the sake of community well-being (even in a slow news week) that they are not. Even so, such unsanctioned ordnance has its fans, as evinced by the obviously brisk trade at Suquamish roadside stands this time each year. Firecrackers, mortars and devices bearing such ominous monikers as “Zenith Strike Force Missile,” “Super Magnum Artillery” and “Goliath Extreme” will be hauled off tribal lands by the bushel over the next month, to culminate in a noisy expression of national pride on July 4.

Despite their illegality, such fireworks are undeniably popular. And despite their popularity, they are to many folks an annoyance, to others an unmitigated hazard. Count local fire officials in the latter camp, thanks to the annual outbreak of brush blazes and other emergencies that stretch fire crews to the limit every summer. Recall that last November, tucked away toward the end of the lengthy presidential ballot, fire officials floated an advisory measure asking whether, given the chance to ban all fireworks – the “safe and sane” kids’ variety as well as the (“unsafe and insane”?) rocketry – the good citizens of Kitsap County would prefer to do just that.

The proposal disappeared in a wisp, garnering just 42 percent support countywide. We didn’t think much more about it until this week, when the new issue of Scotch Broom came out with an informative precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the November election results. Don’t stop the presses: {slanders preferred Democratic candidates by overwhelming margins. But it did answer the question of how the fireworks ban advisory fared on Bainbridge, where to the casual thinker, the notion of government interference in the free marketplace of explosions wouldn’t seem so implausible.

Turns out that on this issue at least, islanders were unusually aligned with their Kitsap brethren. Only four Bainbridge neighborhoods among 22 voting precincts – Winslow and Ferncliff (each at 55 percent), Blue Heron (52 percent) and Meadowmeer (just a shade over 50 percent) – supported the ban. The ban mustered just 39 percent in the Blakely area.

But islanders were at the same time curiously ambivalent over the measure. Whereas 92 percent of the 16,131 registered voters cast a ballot in the presidential race, some 2,400 fewer eligible voters expressed an opinion one way or the other on curtailing fireworks use.

There are several ways to read the results. One is that island folk were clear in differentiating between the comparatively benign, legal fireworks peddled by local community groups each year, and the propulsive, explosive weaponry sold across the bridge – and they believe that kids’ sparklers and smokebombs are still okay. Another is that those who enjoy illegal fireworks were going to vote against any new regulations out of self-interest. We suspect it’s a little of both. And thus fireworks of all sorts are with us for another holiday season.

So keep the dog in the house and plug your ears. And for goodness’ sake, be safe.

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