Monte, Hoquiam city councils discuss powers to declare fireworks bans

After Cosmopolis and Elma initiated emergency bans on fireworks ahead of the dry July 4 weekend, Hoquiam and Montesano considered ordinances this week that would give the mayor the authority to issue similar bans in similar situations.

In both cases, after discussion, the ordinances were tabled and sent to the Hoquiam and Montesano public safety committees for further consideration.

“They are going to send this to the Public Safety Committee to look at versions of the ordinance, and keep it on the agenda to give notice to the public,” said Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel after a Tuesday, July 13, council meeting.

Both ordinances were similar and more or less modeled after existing Cosmopolis and Elma municipal law, and would allow the mayor, after consulting with fire and police chiefs to issue an emergency ban on the use of consumer fireworks in high fire danger situations.

In Hoquiam’s ordinance, the mayor would also seek input from the National Weather Service, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the State Fire Marshall “and other appropriate agencies.”

The Hoquiam City Council discussed its ordinance at some length at its last meeting before it was referred to the Public Safety Committee.

Hoquiam Mayor Ben Winkelman had asked City Attorney Steve Johnson to draft the ordinance. Winkelman had issued an emergency ban ahead of the July 4 weekend, but withdrew it when it became clear Hoquiam’s municipal code did not give him the authority to issue such a ban, no matter the conditions.

“I think it would be good to have a method for the mayor or somebody to intervene in the instance that all fires are banned across the state and in particular our county, but we’re still going to have fireworks,” said Winkelman. “In the event our weather had not changed (immediately before the July 4 weekend) and it would have stayed at 100 degrees-plus, I think we would have had a really different experience.”

Councilman Dave Hinchen said his concern with the ordinance was if there were a mayor who just flat out hated fireworks and may take it upon him or herself to initiate the ban when conditions didn’t really call for it.

Councilman Steven Puvogel said, before the ordinance was tabled, “I think I would vote for this as a stopgap, but I think we should do it all the way. I think this city is probably cut in half;” — those who want to allow personal fireworks, those who want them banned altogether — “I’m good with banning them,” he said.

In both cities, the ordinance, if passed in some form in the near future, wouldn’t go into effect until after the next July 4 holiday.