Fireworks: Legal or not, people love ‘em

Josh Chittenden shows customers the biggest firework sold at the Muckleshoot Reservation. - Margo Horner/The Mirror
Josh Chittenden shows customers the biggest firework sold at the Muckleshoot Reservation.
— image credit: Margo Horner/The Mirror

You can’t light fireworks in Federal Way, Auburn, Des Moines or any of the cities surrounding Federal Way. But people keep buying fireworks.

“They’re starting to add more laws, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting us,” said Sue Davis, who was selling fireworks Sunday at the Muckleshoot Reservation.

Most customers spend an average of $60 to $70 at her stand, Davis said. Often, customers also shop for more fireworks at other stands. Behind the fireworks stands on the Muckleshoot Reservation, there is a large vacant lot where many customers choose to light their fireworks, Davis said. Others take their fireworks to areas in unincorporated King County or the ocean beaches.

“They find somewhere they can go,” she said.

Johathan Luk, 25, and Daniel Cutler, 22, said they planned to light their fireworks, which they purchased Sunday, at a friend’s house in an area of unincorporated King County near Redmond.

It is legal to light fireworks in unincorporated King County from 9 a.m. to midnight July 4; near Federal Way, there are areas of unincorporated King County on the west hill between Federal Way and Auburn. Fireworks are also legal on Indian reservations, such as the Muckleshoot in Auburn or the Puyallup in Pierce County. Fireworks are legal in Pierce County everywhere except within the city of Tacoma.

Daren Dillman, owner of C.J.’s Fireworks stand at the Muckleshoot, said that the reservation remains a popular choice for lighting fireworks, but there are also safer fireworks that people can light even in cities that ban fireworks.

“Most of the time, the police won’t mess with you as long as you’re not acting like an idiot,” he said.

Mild fireworks that don’t make loud noises or blow up in the air are choices that won’t draw the attention of police, Dillman said.

“They really frown upon the big sparkler bombs and the big loud stuff,” he said.

He pointed out a popular, family-friendly choice called a Twitter Glitter, a small cone fountain firework that can be lighted in a driveway. The pyrotechnics go about 14 feet in the air and spread about 5 feet around.

“It sparkles and the kids love it,” Dillman said.

In Federal Way, all fireworks — even the most mild — are banned. The use, discharge, sale, possession and transfer of all fireworks has been illegal in Federal Way since June 1992. Violators could be issued a citation.

Kendra Kay, spokeswoman for South King Fire and Rescue, noted that although fireworks are legal in unincorporated King County, there are restrictions on the type of fireworks. M-80s, dynamite and improvised explosive devices are all illegal.

Kay said she hopes that someday all fireworks will be banned in all areas of the county.

“Hopefully one of these days, it will be illegal everywhere,” she said. “It’s a safety issue and every year we see injuries and house fires as a result of fireworks.”

Contact Margo Hoffman: or (253) 925-5565.

In 2007, there were 1,059 fireworks-related incidents in Washington resulting in more than $21.5 million in property loss, according the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office. This included 160 injuries, of which 49 were children under age 14.

The Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following tips for safe fireworks:

Have water nearby and put pets indoors.

Only adults should light fireworks.

Be sure the fireworks you purchase are legal to possess and discharge.

Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.

Use fireworks outdoors, away from homes, dry grass and trees.

Never try to re-light malfunctioning fireworks.

Don’t throw or point fireworks at another person.

Never experiment with, modify or attempt to make your own fireworks.

Clean up fireworks debris.

Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

For more information, visit

In Federal Way, violators can receive a citation

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