With emergency bans and many shows canceled, where can you see 4th of July fireworks?
Update, July 2, 2021: Carnation has cancelled its scheduled fireworks display. Details below.
With most pandemic restrictions now lifted, people may be yearning to gather and celebrate with the bright lights and explosive fun of fireworks on the Fourth of July. But extremely dry conditions have made them more dangerous than ever. Fire marshals statewide are urging caution, and emergency bans are spreading in many parts of Washington.
Earlier this week, after record-breaking temperatures on top of an ongoing drought, Clark County followed Thurston County with an emergency ban on personal fireworks in unincorporated areas. The cities of Bothell and Mercer Island temporarily joined dozens of other municipalities with permanent bans in place.
Several tribes in Washington also passed emergency measures banning the use and sales of all fireworks on their lands. Those include the Colville and Spokane. The Yakima Nation opted for a ban on discharge during the hottest hours of the day, from 1 to 6 p.m., through the end of July. Some, like the Suquamish, are restricting discharge to designated areas.
The King County Council voted in April to permanently outlaw all fireworks in its unincorporated areas, but that legislation won’t take effect till next year. Pierce County on Tuesday considered an emergency ordinance for a ban in its unincorporated areas, but failed to get the two-thirds majority needed for it to pass.
That’s after many of the large community displays that normally serve as alternatives have been canceled amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
Extreme fire danger this year
Public officials apologized for the sudden policy changes that might disappoint residents or hurt small businesses and nonprofit organizations that rely on revenue from seasonal fireworks sales. But they stressed that the extraordinary heat atop already bone-dry landscapes have made fireworks too dangerous.
“Any activity out on that landscape that creates a spark will create a wildfire,” said state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz as she appealed for safety precautions heading into the holiday weekend.
She noted that her agency, the Department of Natural Resources, has registered more than 550 fire starts this year so far, which is 50 percent more than last year. Data from DNR is used in some counties to justify emergency restrictions on fireworks.
Penalties for violating fireworks bans vary, but in most places enforcement is less of a priority than education as they take effect. In King County, for example, violations will be misdemeanors, but citations will be deferred for the first year.
Some say statistics from last year – when it wasn’t nearly as dry – should be argument enough. According to the state fire marshal, there were 360 fireworks-related fires and 237 injuries in 2020.
Where to go for public displays
If you want to see fireworks this year without risking ignition or injury, there are many places to go. Officials maintain that public shows are the safest way to celebrate.
Travel Tacoma has details on multiple displays in Tacoma, Eatonville, Puyallup, Gig Harbor and at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Seafair’s traditional show over Lake Union in Seattle is canceled, but King County cities that are hosting public displays include Bellevue.
Carnation's fire marshal cancelled its scheduled show Thursday because of the extreme risk this weekend, but organizers say their goal is to reschedule at later date.
In Thurston County, ThurstonTalk has details on shows in Lacey and Tumwater.
For those who prefer to stay in, Seafair will broadcast a virtual show with footage of fireworks displays from past years, airing on at 10 p.m. on KING-5.