News

FWay police won't stand for fireworks

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

A special team of police officers will patrol Federal Way this Fourth of July, looking for people blowing up fireworks within city limits.

City code prohibits –– under punishment of a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail –– the possession and use of fireworks, unless the user has a permit. The city passed the ban in 1992.

Illegal fireworks include bottle rockets, cherry bombs, missile rockets, public display mortars, sky rockets, altered fireworks or homemade explosive devices. Bottle rockets and M80s are illegal even in unincorporated areas of King County where other fireworks are allowed.

Officials are asking city residents to forego shooting off fireworks in their neighborhoods and instead attend the annual Red, White and Blues Festival at Celebration Park. Festival activities begin at 4 p.m. and culminate in a fireworks display at 10:15.

Federal Way Police will be patrolling the city and responding to neighborhood complaints from 4 p.m. July 4 to 2 a.m. July 5.

During last year’s Fourth of July celebration, police issued 10 citations for fireworks violations.

While fireworks are exciting and fun, they can be dangerous, police and fire safety officials say. They are the annual cause of grass and roof fires and injuries, usually burns to the hands and face.

In 2003, 1,316 fireworks-related incidents were reported to the state Fire marshal. Of those, 1,072 were fires and 244 were injuries. In King County, 287 fires and 57 injuries were caused by fireworks.

According to the fire marshal, 62 percent of injuries were burns, followed by trauma (30 percent) and amputation (2 percent). Roman candles caused the majority of injuries (one person was killed and another impaled in the abdomen by separate Roman candle incidents, according to the fire marshal), followed by aerials and sparklers. The leading cause of injury was holding the firework (five people had amputated hands and fingers from illegal explosive devices), followed by throwing and then tampering.

Fireworks-related fires caused an estimated $2 million in property damage, including an apartment fire caused by a Roman candle, a $250,000 wild fire caused by a ground spinner, $20,000 in damage to eight structures and $62,500 in damage to 14 schools.

The Federal Way Fire Department didn’t respond to any serious fireworks-related injuries last year, according to spokeswoman Monica Colby. On the Fourth, though, firefighters put out six small brush and trash fires they believe were started by fireworks. They responded to four more small fires the day after Independence Day.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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