Respect the ban: Why fireworks aren’t allowed in some areas

firetruck in garage

The Bellevue Fire Department recently ran a campaign against illegal fireworks use within the city, hanging colored banners around the city saying “respect the ban” that encouraged people not to set off fireworks within the city during the Fourth of July.

The Respect the Ban campaign is not only meant for the Fourth of July, fireworks use is illegal in the city of Bellevue all throughout the year. The only exceptions are for fireworks shows approved by the city and fire department.

The Fourth of July proceeded without fireworks related incidents. “There were certainly unsanctioned fireworks happening out there,” reported Ken Carlson, a fire marshal at the Bellevue Fire Department. “The good news is that we didn’t have any fireworks related fires in Bellevue nor injuries that we are aware of. Given the size of the city of Bellevue in comparison to other cities in the area, it seems like we did relatively well.”

People still feel that the unsanctioned fireworks can sometimes be a legitimate safety issue. There is a concern that a mortar or other explosive could harm another person or property. “There are a lot of people that get drunk and they do fireworks while they are drinking,” said Ruby Byron, student at Bellevue College expressing her worries. “It becomes like ‘Okay, is that firework going to penetrate my window?’”

Fire truck smaller
A firetruck in the garage of Bellevue Fire Station No. 2.

Safety concerns for some citizens beyond the loud noises and frequent uses of unsanctioned fireworks during the Fourth of July were alleviated by the weather. “Only because it rained,” said Zoe Aleshire, instructor of philosophy at Bellevue College. “If it had not been wet, then yes, I would have felt it was dangerous.”

There are still concerns that the fireworks ban is not as effective as it could be. “I feel like people are getting arrested for it but the problem is not being solved,” said Byron. “There are cops being called to houses where there are sparks shooting off, but just because some cops are coming to some areas where there are fireworks does not mean that the problem is getting solved because there are still fireworks in areas that are not supposed to have fireworks.”

Finding lawful means of regulating fireworks is a complex issue. “There is a problem. The ban is in effect and the ban does help certain situations but it’s kind of like the illegal drug trade in ways where they are illegal but there’s still a trade,” explained Byron, “There is still a black market for drugs. You’re not supposed to do fireworks everywhere but people still get away with it.”

Obtaining a permit for fireworks use within the city is a heavily regulated process. “You have to be, first and foremost, a licensed pyrotechnician,” explained Carlson. “You have to submit a plan that shows the kind of mortars and shells that you are going to shoot and have the requisite dispersal area that the [fire] code requires.” Afterwards, a bond is submitted, the permit is issued, the setup is inspected and a fireman is present during the event.

Those interested in obtaining a copy of the fire code published by the International Code Council can go to their local library, City Hall or purchase one from an online vendor.

Permitted fireworks shows supervised by the Bellevue Fire Department available are at the Downtown Bellevue Park, Tam O’Shanter Park, Lake Boren Park in Newcastle and Cozy Cove in Yarrow Point during the Fourth of July. Eastside Fire & Rescue also hosts a fireworks event on Lake Sammamish near Bellevue College during the Fourth of July.

Unsanctioned fireworks after the Fourth of July are not unexpected. If a citizen encounters unsanctioned fireworks use, “call 911 and report them” says Carlson.