Independence Day is just a couple days away, and with that comes the artistic, patriotic displays of fireworks.
South Beach Regional Fire Authority Chief Dennis Benn, along with other local fire and police authorities, hopes those celebrations happen responsibly. Benn shared a memory from 2014 of people who didn’t respect the danger that fireworks, which burn at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, can bring.
“We went to a structure fire where the occupants were having bottle rocket wars,” Benn said. “The bottle rocket wars were inside the garage, and then when they were done, they went back into the house, (which had an attached garage.) When they went inside the house, they started drinking beer.”
Benn remembered how someone told him how they noticed it started to get smoky inside the house. Benn said by the time firefighters arrived to the call, the fire extended to the roof, and soon, the house burned down.
“That’s one of the things that sticks in your mind,” Benn said. “After the fire’s out and you start the investigation, you go, ‘Oh my God, you guys really did that?’”
Benn said there are about 15 calls to the SBRFA each Fourth of July weekend, and that at least one to two of those consist of injuries.
Dave Golding, Aberdeen Fire Department’s interim fire chief, said in Aberdeen there are usually a couple of firework-related injuries each year during July Fourth weekend.
He described what he’s seen throughout his 24 years at AFD.
“We’ve seen pretty severe injuries to hands and faces,” Golding said. “People lose fingers.”
In addition to physical injuries to people, Golding warned residents to avoid using fireworks in areas with tall grass. Instead, they should light them off where there is pavement and/or gravel, and away from anything that can burn.
Golding said the weather this year presents less of a concern than it did during the steamy summer of 2021, when the Pacific Northwest saw temperatures reach 100. Despite the more moderate weather forecast for the holiday weekend, Golding said there is still fire concern.
Golding shared how the call volume increases this time of year.
“Not just on the 4th of July, but that whole weekend tends to (see an) increase in call volume across the board,” Golding said.
He said there tends to be a few more calls for fire than for emergency medical services because of grassfires that ignite.
“It’s not necessarily all related to fireworks, but we do see an increase,” Golding said.
To prevent possible injuries to amateur firework technicians, Golding said residents should let professionals do the work.
“We always recommend rather than purchasing (your) own fireworks and lighting them off yourself, that you partake in one of the local fireworks displays that are offered, such as the (Aberdeen) Splash Festival,” Golding said.
The Aberdeen Splash Festival runs from noon to 11 p.m. on July 4 at Seaport Landing — 500 N. Custer St., according to the Greater Grays Harbor website. The fireworks show starts at 10 p.m.
But, for those who would rather host their own fireworks celebration, Golding urges them to follow fire safety guidelines.
With that, comes a few rules for when residents can ignite those colorful explosives.
Fireworks within Aberdeen may be discharged on Monday, July 4, between 9 a.m. and midnight
In Hoquiam, they’re allowed to be used on Sunday, July 3, and July 4, between 9 a.m. and midnight.
The fireworks that can be used by private individuals are ones sold at any one of five licensed firework stands between Aberdeen and Hoquiam:
TNT Fireworks — in front of Staples at Gateway Plaza.
Boomer’s Fireworks — in the 300 block of East Heron Street.
Kersey Fireworks — in the 1400 and 2000 blocks of Sumner Avenue in Aberdeen.
Hoquiam’s Lions Club — in Swanson’s SuperValu parking lot at 915 Simpson Ave. in Hoquiam.
There are another eight licensed fireworks stands throughout Grays Harbor County.
Here are a few helpful tips on how best to prepare before starting the firework celebrations with a bright, fiery bang:
Purchase only legal fireworks, which are available at licensed fireworks stands.
Keep a bucket of water nearby in order to place all used fireworks .
Have a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby to put out stray sparks.
Call 911 and give the correct address or location if an emergency arises.
Know basic first aid.
Aberdeen Police Department Lt. Andy Snodgrass said for people with children and pets, that adults should keep an eye on both during the celebrations.
“I would be really weary of letting kids light off fireworks that aren’t kid appropriate,” Snodgrass said.
As for pets, Snodgrass said people should make sure their animals are in a safe location in order to prevent them from running away from the loud booms.
“A lot of times, what we’ll get are loose animals, or animals on the run because some dogs don’t respond well to fireworks. So, make sure your dogs are secure, or medicated, if that’s what you choose to do.”
Then, when lighting the fireworks, here are a few recommendations to take seriously to avoid ending the celebration early with firetrucks and/or a trip to the hospital:
Have a designated adult light all fireworks.
Use eye protection.
Light one firework at a time, move away quickly, and keep spectators at a safe distance until the display is finished.
Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 15-20 minutes, and then soak it in water.
Use only outdoors and away from anything that can burn.
To prevent injuries, follow the label directions carefully.
Always remember to not throw fireworks or hold them in your hand.
Other jurisdictions have different times set for lighting fireworks.
According to the Ocean Shores Police Department’s Facebook page, the firework hours are below:
July 2 and July 3 from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., and July 4 from 12 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Those fireworks hours are for the beach from the Damon Road approach to the Marine View Drive approach. No fireworks are allowed to be used within the city.
To avoid beach fires, fireworks must stay at least 100 feet from the sand dunes, driftwood logs are not to be burned, and all fireworks are to be completely extinguished with water. There are no bottle rockets allowed.
Benn said part of the issue on the beaches is when the visitors arrive to celebrate the holiday, they’re not really aware of how dry the dune grass can get.
“It’s not something they think about,” Benn said. “They go about their business with the fireworks not knowing it can turn into something bad. The people who live on the beach, they’ve seen it before and they know how bad it can be.”
Westport allows fireworks to be discharged on the beach from West Bonge Avenue to Cranberry Beach Road, according to an SBRFA statement.
The times allowed are on July 2 and July 3, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., on July 4, from 9 a.m. to midnight, and on July 5, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
For those who would rather see professionals dazzle them with the bright, colorful lights, Booming Bay Fireworks Display begins at dusk on July 4 at the Westport Marina.
Benn said people don’t respect the heat energy from fireworks. This year, he hopes they do respect it, because the danger is real.
“They think it’s a ‘pop’ (sound), and then it’s done,” he said. “That’s not necessarily the case. The spark swirling around (from the sparkler) is 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The paper in it lights at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. You have to be cognizant and aware of the heat energy that fireworks give off.”