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Whatcom firefighters report what they encountered during this year’s 4th of July celebrations

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Whatcom News contacted the Fire Chiefs of the local fire districts and departments asking about how many fireworks-related fire and medical emergency calls they were sent on during the 4th of July weekend and how many required action. They were also asked how this year compared with past 4th of Julys.

According to the PulsePoint log, fire crews were dispatched to reports of outside fires, but, according to radio transmissions from firefighters at the scenes, many were legal recreational fires or were unable to be located. As noted on the Fire and Aid Incidents Log page on Whatcom News, “Dispatches are the result of information reported and are not confirmation that an incident has actually occurred or has been reported to dispatchers accurately.”

Sumas, Kendall and Welcome (WCFD14) Fire Chief Jerry DeBruin
“Fire district 14 had no fire or EMS incidents related to fireworks during that time period. We were fortunate!”

Sandy Point (WCFD17) Fire Chief Jim Petrie
“We had 2 fireworks related calls on the 4th. 

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  • A beach fire started by stray fireworks. Logs and grass involved.
  • A brush fire started by stray fireworks that threatened a vacant home under construction. 

No injury related EMS calls this year.  Though conditions were very dry this year we were fortunate that during the hours that fireworks were being discharged there was very little wind. Had there been any winds we would have had several grass and brush fire calls. We continue to see untethered lanterns which are very dangerous and illegal. These are an open flame that can land on roofs, fields, or any combustible area.”

South Whatcom Fire Authority Assistant Fire Chief Mitch Nolze
“We did not have any fireworks-related medical or fire incidents on July 4th. From our perspective it is hard to say the specific reason for not having any fireworks related injuries or fires, but we are obviously pleased that our community stayed safe during this holiday.  We have had years where fireworks-related incident activity was high comparatively to this year, so we hope that our, and other organizations’, messaging on the increased fire danger were influential in keeping the community safe this 4th of July. The weather was, and continues to be dry, so the risk of escaped outdoor fires and/or fireworks related ignitions remains heightened for the foreseeable future, and resources continue to be stretched thin for many fire districts throughout the county.”

Lynden Fire Department Fire Chief Mark Billmire
“Between July 3rd – July 5th Lynden Fire responded on 4 fireworks related fires, 3 were small grass fires, mostly extinguished by the homeowner, and 1 trash can fire the crew extinguished. All 4 were directly caused by fireworks. No fireworks related medical calls. Pretty quiet year considering the heat and dry spell we are experiencing – about average compared to previous years. I did receive more phone calls this year from concerned citizens wanting the City to limit/ban fireworks.”

North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Jason Van der Veen
Van der Veen told Whatcom News they responded to 3 minor grass fires that had been handled by the property owners by the time firefighters arrived. There were also a few minor burns from fireworks but only required treating the patients at the scene, no one required transport. He applauded those that showed restraint in setting off fireworks this year, as a lot of people appeared to have. There was as big a crowd out in Birch Bay as in years past but no significant incidents.

Ferndale (WCFD7) Assistant Fire Chief Dean Crosswhite
Crosswhite told Whatcom News they experienced a heavy call load but no serious incidents. There were 2 dumpster fires and a porch fire that were all started by improperly disposed spent fireworks. They also responded to a lot of illegal burning complaints that turned out to be legal recreational fires.

Crosswhite said the correct way to dispose of fireworks is to let them soak in a bucket of water for a while to be sure there is no possibility of them reigniting.

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