Battle Ground narrowly approves new fireworks restrictions

The shorter window to purchase and use fireworks will take effect starting in July of 2019

BATTLE GROUND — NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect new information about the ordinance that allows the Fire Marshal to issue a fireworks ban in years when the fire danger is deemed to be extreme.

A divided city council passed a pair of laws on Monday night that will place new restrictions on the usage of fireworks in Battle Ground starting in 2019.

The first new law, approved by a vote of 4 to 3, will give the city’s fire marshal the ability to ban fireworks entirely during years in which the fire danger is deemed to be “extreme.” According to Fire Marshal Chris Drone, an emergency ban on fireworks usage would happen only in years with extended periods without rain, and low fuel moisture, or else high and erratic winds that could create a hazard of fires spreading quickly. Any decision made would require the evaluation of fire risk using all available data including, but not limited to: The United States National Weather Service, the United States Forest Service, local forecasts, and communication with neighboring cities and fire districts. A ban would impact only the usage of fireworks, and not sales. The ordinance did not give any guidance about how soon before the holiday an emergency ban would have to be implemented.

Either way, Council Member Philip Johnson was strongly opposed to the ordinance.

Members of the Battle Ground City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to adopt new rules around fireworks in the city starting next year. Photo by Chris Brown
Members of the Battle Ground City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to adopt new rules around fireworks in the city starting next year. Photo by Chris Brown

“The people elected us. We should be held responsible for any vote to either suspend, ban, whatever it may be, and not pass that off to Mr. Drone (Battle Ground Fire Marshal Chris Drone) in this case, or whoever comes behind him,” said Johnson, “It should be the people’s representatives to make that decision, and if we’re not willing to do that and we pass it off, then we probably should look for another line of work because that’s why they sent us here.”

The council also voted 4 to 3 to limit the number of days that fireworks can be purchased and used in Battle Ground. Starting in 2019 fireworks can only be sold from July 1-4, and used only on the 3rd and 4th. Sales and usage around the New Years holiday remain unchanged. Prior to this Battle Ground was one of only a handful of municipalities in the state to have no restrictions beyond state laws.

“I don’t think it’s a win either way,” said Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman, “but I think it’s a move in the right direction of allowing people to still do what they want to do, as far as lighting off fireworks and celebrating the Fourth of July, but it doesn’t allow them to celebrate the 30th of June. Because nothing special happened the 30th of June, that I know of, at least.”

“I couldn’t say it enough before, this is something I think should have went through the will of the people,” said Council Member Brian Munson, who voted no on both measures. “If we’re going to put an ordinance out there that we cannot enforce … I don’t get it.”

The enforcement aspect was also brought up by Johnson, who argued that the reduced number of days would lead to more complaints, while police and fire can’t cite someone for using fireworks illegally unless they’re actually caught in the act.

“It just doesn’t hit me as something that’s enforceable,” Johnson argued, “and 10 percent of the people who normally cause the problems will tick the other 90 percent off against them, and against us as well — the city as a whole.”

But fellow Council Member Adrian Cortez, who admitted having a difficult time with the vote, argued that not passing laws because some people might break them is illogical.

“Yes, we’re going to have some citizens who don’t comply,” he said. “But we have citizens who don’t comply with speeding, we have citizens who don’t comply with a lot of things. That doesn’t mean you don’t pass speeding laws, or any other law that we have in our city.”

The city had conducted an online poll last month, which showed 69 percent of respondents either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the dangers or inconvenience of fireworks use. The majority of people in the survey, 37 percent, recommended that the city ban fireworks altogether, while 20 percent voted for restricting the days they could be used.

“I always go back to this: your right to celebrate independence in America is on July 4th,” added Bowman, who said he’s taken to leaving the city on the holiday due to the noise. “I don’t start celebrating New Years on Christmas and then end it the day after New Years.”

The council will still need to work out exactly what kinds of penalties could be involved in violating the city’s new fireworks restrictions. Those would take effect within thirty days of the rules being adopted.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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