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Fireworks abusers draw fire

The Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office and Sheriff Steve Boyer are teaming up this year to get the word out about proper fireworks use for Fourth of July celebrations.

The effort was inspired in part by the 630 fireworks complaints received at the county’s 911 dispatch center last year from July 1 through July 7.

A common theme generally links the complaints, half of which were submitted from unincorporated parts of the county — residents were irked because their neighbors were illegally discharging fireworks and, in the process, raising a ruckus or disturbing family pets.

“I think the expectation is if someone calls and complains about an issue, something will be done about it,” said county fire marshal Derrick Crawley. “It’s a natural place to call. It’s no different than calling to complain about a neighbor having a wild party.”

“We have to figure out where it’s happening to prioritize and be prepared next time around and respond to it,” said Boyer.

By county code, legal fireworks can be discharged only between 11 a.m and 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July. At no other time are they allowed under the law.

“The task is to figure out how big a problem this is and figure out if there is something we can do about it, given our limited resources,” Crawley said.

The problem is, Sheriff’s deputies on duty don’t always have the means to chase after firework complaints if no one has been hurt and there is no imminent danger to the community.

Extenuating circumstances such as a domestic violence incident would have to take precedence.

But authorities don’t want these 911 calls to fall away unattended.

“The focus is to identify key geographical areas in the county based on the complaints received,” Crawley said. “This is a pilot project right now.”

The goal will be to pinpoint the origin of the 911 complaints as they come in this year, and then issue template-style letters to those neighborhoods.

The letters are expected to emphasize safety and remind residents of the fireworks laws in the county.

“We’re trying to encourage people to be responsible,” Boyer said. “One thing that would be helpful is for more communication between neighbors.”

Boyer said the goal too is to ensure citizen safety when using or displaying fireworks this Fourth of July.

“We just want people to have fun, but to be safe about it too and get the word out and let people know about the laws,” Boyer said. “It can be a recipe for disaster.”

The effect, if any, of the letters can be tracked in the future.

“It’s a good exercise to follow through on,” Crawley said.

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