Blaineand Birch Bay serious about safety on dual holiday weekend

Published on Thu, Jun 30, 2005 by eslee Smith

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Blaine and Birch Bay serious
about safety on dual holiday weekend

By Leslee Smith

The unsafe discharge of fireworks, both legal and illegal, is a growing public safety concern for the residents and police officers in Blaine. Residents have reported a steadily increasing number of crimes and concerns regarding fireworks misuse over the past few Independence Day celebrations.

Blaine chief of public safety Mike Haslip said that over the five day period between July 1 and July 5, 2004, Blaine police officers responded to more than 20 separate fireworks incidents, including offenses in which fires were set and expensive property damaged or destroyed.

The most serious incident involved a tragic house fire that completely gutted the home of a senior citizen, destroying his life’s possessions and almost killing both himself and a guest. Several of the incidents occurred when youngsters acquired and set off fireworks without responsible adult supervision.

Others were caused by adults, some sober and some intoxicated. All of the incidents were preventable, and could have been avoided if common sense rules had been followed.

Animal control officers are kept similarly busy: Police officers alone took custody of a half dozen well cared for family pets which bolted from their homes, frightened by fireworks in their neighborhoods.
Parents who allow their children to possess and set off fireworks, legal or illegal, need to remember that they are legally and financially responsible for any damages that are caused with those fireworks, even if the damage was unintentional. Incidents where physical injury occurs can be enormously expensive to the families who purchased or set off the offending fireworks, whether or not they were ‘‘safe and sane.’’

Just because neighbors do not complain openly about fireworks near their homes does not mean they are not bothered by the noise, the pollution, and the danger that fireworks create.

If you are in the habit of setting off fireworks at home, and notice your neighbors outside with garden hoses, wetting down their roofs and decks or collecting the debris from your fireworks that landed in their yards, there is a good chance that your display is unwanted, intrusive, and unsafe.

Lynn Givler, operations manager of Whatcom County parks reminds everyone that there is a strict policy in place for all Whatcom County public parks, including Semiahmoo Park in Blaine. These policies are, “No Alcohol Permitted in Parks” and “Fireworks may be authorized for use as an organized display by a licensed pyrotechnician. All other uses of fireworks are forbidden.”

Similar rules are in effect at Blaine’s Marine Park and the Port of Bellingham property on Marine Drive. The port controls all land on the south side of Marine Drive, from the railroad tracks west to Blaine’s public pier.

Large signs are posted west of the tracks on Marine Drive and in each of the public parking lots at the harbor. They outline the port’s policy against alcohol and fireworks. Pam Taft, port director at Blaine, stated their policy is simple and designed to protect both the public’s safety and their valuable property. “No fireworks [are] to be discharged on port of Bellingham property.” In addition, there is no alcohol permitted in public areas; alcohol is only permitted on privately owned boats.
Due to the amount and nature of the fuels present in Marine Park and adjoining property, the use of fireworks is prohibited within all areas west of the railroad tracks and north of Marine Drive, to the end of the observation pier, with the exception of permitted, professionally produced fireworks displays.

This restriction is by special order of the Blaine fire code official. IFC 104.1, 104.11, 109.1, 111.3, 111.4. With this new order it effectively means no fireworks are permitted west of the tracks on Marine Drive as there are no fireworks permitted on Port of Bellingham property which encompasses the south side of Marine Drive.

Some of the most dangerous complaints which police officers and firefighters handle are those where personal fireworks are set off in public areas near gatherings of people.

In Blaine, the areas along Semiahmoo Parkway, Marine Drive, and Peace Portal Drive have been especially problematic on the evening of July 4th.

Fireworks injuries requiring police and fire department assistance have occurred there in each of the last two years. Division chief Jim Rutherford of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue reports of the 30 incidents in NWFRS’ response area on July 4 in 2003 and 2004, 13 of the incidents in the Blaine and Birch Bay area were a direct result of fireworks. Four resulted in injuries, two were on Birch Bay Drive and two were within Blaine city limits (which includes Semiahmoo Parkway along the spit). One of the incidents in the city involved fireworks being discharged near a crowd of people.

This year, extra fire and emergency crews will be on duty in Blaine’s public viewing areas around Drayton Harbor to handle the increased number of emergency calls. Extra police officers will also be on duty, patrolling for violations, especially on Marine Drive and Semiahmoo Parkway. Officers will impound fireworks and violators could face criminal citations and fines.

The public safety goal is to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the community’s excellent Old Fashioned 4th public fireworks display at the close of a safe and happy Independence Day celebration.