After the smoke cleared at the City Council Special Emergency Meeting, the resolution passed to ban all firework activities. The main reason stated was the concern over the public threat of a fire emergency. The Deer Park Gazette takes a more in-depth look at why the decision was made and the thoughts of those involved.
The emergency City Council meeting was called to discuss whether Deer Park should allow consumer fireworks to be sold and discharged within city limits and to ratify Mayor’s decision to cancel the fireworks show.
Mayor Tim Verzal opened the meeting with a few comments to express the background of this issue. On June 25th, he canceled the display of the fireworks scheduled for July 4th based on a Spokane County Fire Weather and Fire Behavior Alert he received. He believed it was in the best interest of the health and safety of the citizens of Deer Park. On June 28th, the mayor received a letter from Fire Marshall Jared Harm, in which he asked for the public’s help in reducing the risk of fires. The mayor expressed that he would have enjoyed watching the fireworks display but not at the risk of public safety.
The Mayor invited both Fire Marshal Jared Harms and Fire Chief Bill Neckels to speak about our current fire dangers. Fire Chief Bill Neckels spoke on the current high temperatures and the historic drought conditions already keeping firefighters extremely busy. He stated that as of June 25th, the fire danger level was raised to high. Fire Marshal Jared Harm was in agreement with Neckels on the fire dangers and had no further comment.
The mayor commented that he had received a proposed alternative resolution from Council Member Schut. Which would allow for the mayor to reschedule the canceled fireworks display for a better time for the public to enjoy. Schut also wanted to have the council ban the use of fireworks on July 3rd and July 4th but still allow for the selling of fireworks that could be used for New Year’s celebrations. Schut later said that there were already booths set up for selling. Vendors had already put money into licenses, insurance, and other expenses. Schut stated that to ban the sale of fireworks would be shutting down businesses similar to what had happened when the pandemic started and without providing any relief to those businesses. The mayor thought it unwise even to allow the purchase of fireworks in the city limits.
Council Member Schut stated that he felt the mayor’s resolution should be taken into three parts, not the all-or-nothing plan which was being presented to them. Schut supported the mayor’s decision to cancel the display of fireworks. However, he felt strongly about supporting local businesses that were already in Deer Park, ready to sell fireworks in the next couple of days. He believed the City Council can not legislate common sense, and if people want to light off fireworks, they will find a way even if the city banned fireworks. Schut called for a modification to the Mayor’s resolution to allow the sale of fireworks. There was a 2-3 vote against the motion.
Council Member Stapp said he appreciated both the mayor and Council Member Schut for doing so much on this issue. He did argue for liberty and against the unfairness to the businesses relying on that income. He also stated that this felt like government overreach, which our economy is still suffering from due to the restrictions during COVID-19. Stapp says there has to be a balance between safety and public freedoms.
Council Member Ron Scholz expressed enjoyment of the fireworks season but felt it was important to listen to the professionals because they know what they are talking about. He felt it was a moral issue; if something did happen because the council did not ban everything could the council deal with that responsibility?
Council Members Mary Babb, and Dee Cragun did not share any comments or have anything to add to the discussion.
With a 3-2 vote, the mayor’s resolution to ban the sale and discharge of consumer fireworks in the city (July 3rd and 4th, 2021), as well as the cancelation of the public Indiependence Day fireworks display planned at the Deer Park Sports Complex was passed.
Disclosure: Council Member Schut is one of the owners of the Deer Park Gazette.