Will fireworks be banned in Benton County next year? Commissioners have a plan
A drunk man setting off fireworks reportedly sparked this 20-acre fire south of Kennewick in 2018.
BENTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Benton County could ban fireworks in unincorporated areas around the Fourth of July — but only if the Southeast Washington area is considered to be
at “extreme” fire danger risk. County commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance last week
allowing them to prohibit shooting off all types of fireworks starting in 2023 between June 28 and
July 5. The ordinance goes into effect a year from now, meaning no changes are likely thisupcoming summer. Starting summer 2023, commissioners
will decide if the ban is warranted based
on how dry the environment is. A ban would effect only those living in “unincorporated” parts of
the county, not those living within a city limits. Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Prosser and
Benton City have their own fireworks regulations.
The decision will be based on the region’s “Energy Release Component” — a composite
moisture index fire managers use to measure the fire danger potential of a season. Washington
State Department of Natural Resources, as well as other state and federal land managers,
measures an area’s energy release value on a scale from 0 to 17, with 0-3 being “low”
risk for fire danger and 17 being an “extreme” risk. If Benton County’s level meets or exceeds
17 around the week of June 19, the new ordinance would allow commissioners to enact an outright
ban on fireworks for the upcoming holiday.
This presentation slide defines the levels at which fire danger is determined under the Energy
Release Component composite fule moisture index.
County commissioners will ultimately be the ones to make the call on whether a ban goes into
effect, said Benton County Fire Marshal Clark Posey.
The region has only twice reached Level 17 in the last decade — in 2015 and just this last summer.
Record-breaking heat and an extended dry spell last year resulted in dozens of fires calls in the
around the Tri-Cities last Fourth of July.
The new ordinance gives Benton County commissioners that flexibility they need to be able to
lessen that danger and act proactively, he argues. Posey said he also realizes the obvious difficulties
with enforcing such bans. But at the same time, the ordinance would do some good in cracking
down on the worst offenders in Benton County. “Even the chiefs realize it’s going to be hard to
enforce, but at least it’s going to be an avenue to enforcement,” he said. FIREWORK POLICIES
IN THE TRI-CITIES Kennewick, Prosser, Connell and unincorporated Franklin County have all banned
firing off private fireworks. That includes the portion of Franklin County that’s surrounded by
Pasco that’s referred to as the “donut holes.”
Pasco, Richland, West Richland and Benton City all allow fireworks around the Fourth of July
holiday, but they limit the types of fireworks and most forbid aerials. In Richland, Benton City
and unincorporated Benton County, such as Finley, people are limited to sparklers, fountains and
novelty snaps. Ground spinners and smoke devices are not allowed. Pasco also has limits on the type
of fireworks that can be shot off. RELATED STORIES FROM TRI-CITY HERALD LOCAL ‘Spectacular’
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