The continuing drought wave is expected to last well beyond July 4, which has created an extreme wildfire danger. At a special meeting on June 29, Pacific County commissioners reflected on what actions they could take in such a short time frame.
Public comments kicked off the meeting, and commentators were brief, and most simply said they thought it was too risky. No member of the public has expressed support for allowing the fireworks to continue this year.
â€œI’m really worried because with Thurston County, Clark County, Cosmopolis and South Bend and more, I think, banning the fireworks, I think we’re going to have a flood of people coming here, and I think it’s very dangerous because of our dry conditions. “said Skyler Walker.
According to county risk manager Kathy Spoor, she was contacted by commissioners over the weekend about the fire danger and actions the county could take. As a result, she spent most of the day on June 28 reaching out to state officials to clarify what authority, if any, the county had in such a short time frame.
â€œIt was a popular topic at the Washington Association of County Officials meeting yesterday,â€ Spoor said. â€œFireworks bans were the topic of discussion, and many counties were sort of in the same position. What we heard is that the law allows us to do something like this, but we have to do it at least a year in advance. It does not allow us to do this (ban) even in the most extreme weather conditions. “
Spoor also learned that Gov. Jay Inslee was considering three different actions, including a statewide ban, a ban that would allow counties to step down or relinquish the mandate one year in advance. However, Inslee hasn’t taken any action, and it’s unclear if he’ll take action until the weekend.
“From a legal standpoint, your hands are somewhat tied,” Spoor told Commissioners regarding actions they are taking other than just encouraging residents and tourists to avoid the booms and festive crackles this year.
Regardless of the decisions of county officials, even if a ban were imposed, county jurisdiction ends at the dune line on the beaches. The state controls coastal beaches and only state officials can issue a ban.
“The beach itself does not belong to the county,” said Commissioner Frank Wolfe. â€œThe beach itself is state owned and is state run and state supervised. The beach police authority in the state to the end of the beach, which is roughly where the dune grass begins.
“I’ll tell you fireworks, and dune grass doesn’t mix.” I spent 10 years or more, actually 14 years or more, in the Ocean Park Fire Department as an early volunteer. I have never seen anything scarier than a beach grass fire on July 4th swooping down on me at around 40mph because the wind was blowing it. Once it starts, it is almost impossible to turn it off. Wolfe added.
Once the county passes wording under an ordinance stating that a ban can be imposed under specific conditions, it would have the power to enforce it, but the change must be made a year beforehand. The council or the fire marshal would then have the power to decide whether to pronounce the ban.
â€œWe enforce the laws, but we can only enforce the laws that exist,â€ Sheriff Robin Souvenir said. â€œObviously, if there is nothing that can be put in place, then there is nothing we can impose regarding the restriction of all fireworks in Pacific County. “
The county should have put the language in an ordinance by June 28 to have the power to issue a ban in 2022. So the earliest it could issue a ban is now 2023, and it’s already being drafted. .
â€œDepending on how we set it up, we’ll at least do something similar to what South Bend and Clark County have done,â€ Spoor added.
South Bend City Council passed Order 1512 in 2016 to allow a ban on the use of fireworks in specific weather conditions, including extreme fire hazards. â€œMayor Julie Struck was very forward thinking,â€ said South Bend Town Clerk Dee Roberts.
The commissioners concluded the meeting by voting the adoption of resolution 2021-033, asking all residents and tourists to be alert to their actions over the weekend and to encourage all who are considering lighting up fireplaces. fireworks think twice.