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Do fireworks bans reduce injuries, fires? Tacoma police say yes

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TACOMA, Wash. — Fireworks knocked out power to 10,000 people in Pierce County and sent a Tacoma apartment complex up in flames.

“There were a lot of people using tons of fireworks,” Tacoma resident Damon DeAugustine said of Tuesday night’s illegal celebrations.

That July 4th tradition turned into a chaotic scene.

“I look off my back porch and then just see this big bow of smoke,” said DeAugustine.

Fireworks sparked flames at an apartment complex off Westridge Avenue in Tacoma.

“There were plenty of people trying to get their stuff out, trying to get safe, making sure everyone’s out, knocking on doors and everything,” DeAugustine said.

Those flames left plenty of damage, including a collapsed roof, that is keeping anyone from moving back inside.

“Definitely could’ve caught one of these trees or spread to another building,” DeAugustine said. “I knew they (fireworks) burned at a very high degree and everything, but never knew 12 units burned down just like that.”

A sign on a sports complex says it all, “Fireworks are illegal within the city limits of Tacoma.”

“We need voluntary compliance from people in Tacoma to have any kind of ban have any sort of effect,” said Officer Loretta Cool, spokesperson for the Tacoma Police Department.

But, of course, not everyone follows the ban, so 10 Tacoma police officers make up the fireworks patrol team working June 30 to July 5 to spot illegal use and hand out $257 citations.

“This city is what, 35 square miles? And we have 200,000 citizens and the officers that go out … they could go one block and find five people shooting off fireworks,” Cool said.

Cool said officers are citing some people, educating others, and confiscating illegal fireworks from everyone.  Despite the numerous calls about illegal use, she argues the ban is working.

“We’ve had a significant reduction in the injuries that have occurred from fireworks and, obviously, we’ve had a serious reduction in the fires that take place around the Fourth of July,” said Cool.

But it’s still happening. Not just in Tacoma, but Renton also has a fireworks ban.  Someone ignored that ban, too, causing a house on SE 171st Place to go up in flames.

Home in Renton goes up in flames after fireworks accident.

Tacoma will release its report on this year’s fireworks violations at an upcoming city council meeting.

In Snohomish County, the city of Marysville said its preliminary reports indicate the number of emergency responses due to fireworks were significantly lower during this July Fourth holiday period than in previous years, particularly within the city of Marysville, where fireworks were banned for the first time.

"The preliminary reports indicate that a majority of Marysville citizens did abide by the city’s new fireworks law," the city said in a news release. "While we recognize that there is some disappointment over the fireworks ban, the bulk of citizen feedback has been very positive."

The city said that during the period from June 24 through July 4, the Marysville Fire District responded to 11 known fireworks-related incidents, including fires and injuries: seven within the city of Marysville, three within Fire District 12 and one incident in Quil Ceda Village. In the past, the District has averaged more than one dozen fireworks incidents within Marysville city limits alone.