The Gig Harbor City Council voted 4-3 June 27 to ban fireworks entirely beginning in 2023.
That means this is the last year residents can use fireworks. They’re only allowed on the Fourth of July.
Paul Rice, the city’s building official and fire marshal, clarified at the meeting that the ordinance allows for public displays, sponsored by the city, if Gig Harbor chooses to do something like that in the future.
What residents had to stay
Four residents sent written comments that City Clerk Josh Stecker read at the meeting. All were in favor of passing the ordinance.
They said, in part:
▪ “A ban will prevent our homes from catching fire from a stray or misguided firework. And, most importantly, a ban will prevent injury to the users.”
▪ “If you do this for one reason, do it to protect our veterans and first responders.”
▪ “I am here today literally fighting to protect my life, my home and my property.”
▪ “There are many other, and safer ways to raise money for team equipment.”
Some also spoke at the meeting.
Brian King told the council about how the ban will affect local sports teams.
“All the concerns I just heard all talk about the use of fireworks, not necessarily the sale of fireworks. My daughter is getting ready to start at Gig Harbor High School with the soccer team. A lot of sporting groups use the sale of fireworks as their biggest fundraiser for uniforms and equipment. They can even help with tournaments throughout the year,” King said. “... For the current proposal I am recommending that the council vote no because of it including the sale of fireworks. Something that allows our kids to work at the stands in a safe and controlled environment.”
Others spoke about how climate change has impacted how they think about fireworks.
“I am in favor of the ordinance, even though I have been a fan of fireworks,” Georgina Armstrong said. “We’re now entering a various dangerous era of climate change. There are other options to watch fireworks displays put on commercially and municipally.”
“I just learned about this today … I think by many standards this has been a quick moving process that you guys are considering this ordinance,” Heath Hykala said. “Living here for about a decade now these stands have been a great place to take my little girls to buy small amounts of fireworks to do in our neighborhood. I think it’s an opportunity for small fireworks that supports local organizations.”
The council also heard from a Gig Harbor High School coach.
“We are only able to discharge on the fourth this year and I thought we were in a trial run with that,” soccer coach Katie Bennett said. “I think our stand is a great way for the girls to get that work experience, fundraising for that privilege of getting to play with all the gear and everything. The community really supporting us as a program.”
What council members had to say
Before the council voted, members spoke about the ordinance.
“I am hopeful that we can agree one person injured by fireworks is one too many. One home is one too many and one business is one too many,” council member Jeni Woock said.
Last year the council passed a new policy that went into effect April 26 for this Fourth of July. That new policy states that discharging fireworks within city limits is legally permitted only on July 4 from 9 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. This will be the first year observing this new policy.
“We haven’t gave the ordinance revising firework discharge and sales this year a chance and I believe we need to do that,” council member Mary Barber said.
“It made me sad the idea of kids not being able to do fireworks in the future but the impacts of climate change is the one of the reasons we’re here tonight. I think this is in the city’s best interest,” council member Robyn Denson said about the ban.
“If we don’t take action now, then the next year when it might be super hot or super dry, we’ll have no ordinance in place,” council member Roger Henderson said.
After the discussion Monday night, the council voted 4-3 to pass the ordinance to ban fireworks, which will be in effect for July 4, 2023.
Council members Denson, Henderson, Brenda Lykins and Woock voted in favor of the ordinance.
Council members Barber, Le Rodenberg and Seth Storset voted against it.
Violation of the new ordinance could result in a penalty of $1,000.
For this year all of the fireworks typically sold at the licensed stands within the city limits and the county are acceptable. What are not allowed are “dangerous fireworks.”
“It is unlawful for any person to sell, possess, use or explode any dangerous fireworks within the city limits of Gig Harbor. Any item of fireworks which does not bear a ‘Safe and Sane’ registration or classification of the State Fire Marshal ... shall be deemed dangerous and is prohibited,” the city code says.
Dangerous fireworks — such as explosives and homemade fireworks — will not have the “Safe and Sane” label.
“For next year’s ban it includes all fireworks (including fountains). Those that are exempt from this ban include sparklers, toy caps and the typical party poppers found at retail stores,” Paul Rice, the city’s building official and fire marshal told The Gateway.
Other news at the council meeting:
At the beginning of the June 27 council meeting, the council approved newly-appointed City Administrator Katrina Knutson’s contract with the consent agenda.
Her contract that goes into effect July 5, 2022 lists a salary of $175,884.
During the mayor’s report, Mayor Markley said: “I want to thank the council for their tremendous support of Katrina and for this decision to hire her as the permanent city administrator. She is already doing an amazing, exceptional job. I’m so excited. I know all of you and our staff is as well. I want to welcome her officially.”