Setting off illegal fireworks in Edmonds? It now will cost you — a lot

Edmonds City Councilmembers, Mayor Mike Nelson and city staff near the end of their Tuesday night meeting.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to get tougher on those who set off illegal fireworks in the city — to the tune of $500 for a first-time offense.

Under the amended fireworks code, a first-time violation is now considered a non-traffic infraction. Those getting caught a second time — or more — within five years can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.

Previously, violating the fireworks code was a civil matter subject to a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, $150 for the third offense and $200 for each violation thereafter within a three-year period.

The original proposal called for a $250 first-time charge, but Councilmember Vivian Olson proposed an amendment increasing that to $500, which the council also unanimously approved.

Asked whether the changes would help police catch violators, Acting Chief Jim Lawless noted that “it comes down to deterrence and the ability to enforce.” He admitted that the department consistently struggles — during the July 4th holiday — to balance the volume of fireworks calls vs. the personnel available. “But at the same time a $50 fine even when cited is not a huge deterrence when chances are what they just lit off cost more than 50 bucks,” he said.

Most of the time, when police respond to a fireworks complaint, the fireworks have already been discharged, leaving officers to figure out who set them off. “If we have the ability to cite someone, it is a much high deterrence to have it (the ability to charge) at that misdemeanor level,” he said.

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst noted that illegal fireworks discharges are also common other times of the year, including those occurring in recent weeks following Seattle Seahawks football team victories. He added he hoped that officials would begin immediate education and enforcement, and Lawless said that would occur as a team effort between police and fire officials. (Under the amended code, both the police chief and fire marshal “or their designees” are able to cite violators.)

In other action Tuesday night, the council held two public hearings and had a lengthy discussion regarding separate proposals to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan map to change designations for properties in the Edmonds Bowl and Perrinville. In the end they voted to defer action on either proposal until their Oct. 6 meeting. (The council isn’t meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 29, as it’s the fifth Tuesday of the month — traditionally a night off.)

Both map amendment proposals were reviewed by the Edmonds Planning Board, which approved the staff recommendation to OK the Perrinville project and rejected the recommended staff approval of the Edmonds Bowl proposal.

Staff emphasized that changing the map designations would not mean the approval of any projects for those properties; any future proposals would have be vetted through the regular city process for rezoning.

The properties in question (outlined in orange) at 9th Avenue North.

The first public hearing addressed the Edmonds Bowl proposal, which would impact two parcels at 522 and 530 9th Ave. N. The applicants, Carolyn Mangelsdorf and Robert Grimm, have lived in Edmonds for more than 20 years. Mangelsdorf said that now that their children are grown, the couple would like to subdivide their large lot, build a smaller house in back and sell the house in front. Under the proposal, the map designation would be changed from Single Family-Resource to Single Family-Urban 1, the latter of which allows for greater potential density.

Some of the opponents who live near the proposed map change said during the public hearing they were worried that it would change the neighborhood’s character, which now includes large lots and green space.

The Perrinville proposal (outlined in blue).

The second map amendment involves two undeveloped parcels in the Perrinville area off 76th Avenue West, and a change from Neighborhood Commercial to Multi-Family Residential — Medium Density. The owner of the parcels has proposed building six to seven townhomes on the site, but that would be subject to future city approval if the map change were approved. Some residents offering testimony during the public hearing expressed concerns about the environmental effects of the change, including impacts to the Perrinville Creek watershed, which is already deteriorating.

Both items will be revisited Oct. 6.

The council also:

– Receive an annual report from Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Linda Coburn, who noted that it would be her last report to the council. Coburn, who has served as Edmonds’ Municipal Court judge since 2015, is running uncontested on the Nov. 3 ballot for a position on Washington’s Court of Appeals.

– Discussed but did not take action on a proposed amendment to the Edmonds Cares Fund for COVID-19 relief that would prioritize how to allocate an additional $632,500 the city is receiving in federal CARES Act funds. The city is proposing to distribute the money in the following ways: Increasing grants for housing and small business support; providing additional funds to the Edmonds Food Bank; and offering more scholarships through the city’s LEAP day camp program for elementary students. Based on council discussion and suggestions, Community Services and Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty said he would come back to the council with ordinance language for approval Oct. 6.

– A discussion on a flood damage prevention ordinance was postponed due to the lateness of the hour.

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. We dont hear fireworks all the time. $500 followed by punitive action which includes jail time, is excessive. The Edmonds City Council is trying to crack down on time-honored Independence Day Celebration because of scared dogs? Imagine giving jail time to people who dont pick up dog poo.

    1. The school district was quick to pull out the school officers because they “triggered” a few students. Fireworks can trigger our veterans, the people who fought for us to have the freedom to even have a celebration. Yet we don’t put a ban on fireworks? Interesting to see how the actions of council and others really demonstrate their biases. Hypocrisy at its finest.

      1. Sam – there are a lot of things that can “trigger” us Veterans – like traffic, or masks, or large groups with people in masks…that’s why we have therapy – to work through those triggers and become even better assets in our community. I’d prefer that people LIVE instead of investing so much time policing a once a year tradition.

    2. Scared dogs? How about fires and setting an example for children? Some laws we obey?
      Kudos to the Edmonds city council for correcting a long overdue omission in common sense legislation.

    3. Excellent. Both decision on amount of fine and the enforcement. I’m with
      Chief lawless…deterrents are an excellent way to get folks to comply. I did notice there were no fireworks. I heard after the Seahawks game last Sunday. And he said 500. First time. 2nd time is where it gets worse. WANTED TO MAKE that Clear right now. I know people are scared, I know they some hate authority…i did as a younger person. But things have changed a great deal all over the country…Our police are from my own conversations and their actions think compared to other places sort of won that game. Our guys will be stern if necessary. But they are also gentle and caring and babysit for a very large daycare center. Haha. US. So good. I liked that meeting. Good work city council. And Thankyou Edmonds police for 30 perfect years. Deb.

  2. Peripheral to the fireworks issue, has there been any assessment of the risk of wildfire in Edmonds? It may seem silly to consider, but it also seemed that way to the suburbs of Portland a month ago. Edmonds is a highly vegetated area and could potentially have a good size fuel load. I like the leafy aspect of Edmonds, but does it have a downside in this respect?
    I’d like to hear the Edmonds Fire Department’s take on this question.

    1. I’m asking because I don’t know, but is there a jail-time penalty for having a campfire during a no-burn. I had a camp fire once during a no-burn because I didn’t know a no-burn was in effect. I couldn’t imagine going to jail unless I actually started a forest fire.

      1. if we all pay attention. Have motion lights. Hear a noise hit that key fob. With a group mentality we hopefully won’t have those problems. If we do…we will put them out. Together in Love and Pride in our community. It doesn’t matter if some are Dems and some Reps. We are one anyway…we can disagree. Discussion creates change. Diversity does too. Its like Double the Fun. It Will Happen. I want it so much for all of you and me too. Love to Edmonds. K aka Deb.

  3. Yes, the peoples’ God given right to annoy the hell out of each other and their pets with firecrackers and cherry bombs, shall never be infringed upon by petty city ordinances which are rarely if ever enforced anyway. Buy ear plugs and get over it everybody. (Another problem solved with a simple low cost solution). I wonder if Pet Smart has doggy and kitty ear plugs or mufflers?

  4. “Personal use” 4th of July fireworks seem to start a week before the holiday, and extend a few days after. It’s either exceptional patriotic exuberance, or a delight in making things go “boom”. Very good idea to increase the penalties.

    Book ‘em, Dano.

  5. Two years ago there was a big problem on 9th: the fireworks not only made a lot of noise, but their were sparks that went into the air and we worried about a fire starting on our roof. The next morning we had to pick up all the debris they left around .

    Having fun is good, but indulging in immature behavior isn’t.

    1. Kathe,

      Your worry was justified. I’ve lived in the Edmonds Bowl long enough to recall when a nearby home caught on fire on July 4 while the homeowners were out of town. Fireworks had landed on their roof. The damage was so extensive that the home had to be torn down and re-built.

      I appreciate this action taken by Edmonds City Council, including the second time within five years “fine of not more than $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.”

      1. I appreciate you Joan btw. I’m shooting from the hip, but I am betting that there are more fires caused by people smoking illegally behind buildings than there are from fire works. I agree that there should be charges where damages are caused, but prior restraint on the use of fire works to the extent that people can be put into jail is extreme. It’s also unusually maybe if we consider we don’t put people smoking illegally in jail, just those that actually cause a fire. People who argue for legal recreational drugs and legal abortions ague that prior restraint just makes the practices more illicit, less controlled and more precarious.

      2. We certainly have heard all the reasons for not having fireworks, and they are good ones. I am just disappointed that we find ourselves with another law with a higher penalty, and a little more of our freedoms removed.

        1. No worries. Those you don’t mind annoying and disrespecting their neighbors, others pets, and possibility creating a fire hazard will find other ways to express their selfish “freedom”.

        2. Allen Dale, this is my first time ever reading “selfish” and “freedom” ever in the same sentence.

        3. If they would have stopped when asked long ago…it wouldn’t have come to this. I think you know as well as I do that in a town with this kind of money, the fine had to be high. It will be ok. When freedom becomes danger as it has recently some times ya lose a bit. If we are gracious, friendly and proud of our town and ourselves…it will be OK Carl. Have a good one. Deb

  6. They have bumped the fine up past the ouch line but as per the prior policy if it is not enforced how much does it matter? There are places in Seattle and Bellevue that have $1,000 fines and people still light off. Personally I would rather see designated fireworks locations and strict enforcement everywhere else.

    1. Great idea Anthony and I totally agree but it will never happen. Police men and women are only human and tend to be of a patriotic bent I think. As a society we give them great latitude as to when and how they enforce our laws and codes. Do you really think they want to have to give out large fines and potential jail terms to people who see themselves as only celebrating the birth of our nation and making a little noise to do it? The big fines will not create more or better enforcement. They are a way for it to look to the public that something is being done about this annual irritation to many folks and their pets. It isn’t going to change. Buy the ear plugs and keep a close eye on your home. I got a metal roof that gives me a lot of piece of mind.

      1. I live up the hill. I have been told, infact encouraged to call them if I hear anything. They want to know. They want to help. And yes. Police can be stern..sort of sick of things they have see over and over. They put their lives on the line for us. I would never want to marry a man or woman…not knowing if they were coming home alive. Lets give some credit here…be kind.

  7. For a week before and after the 4th of July, my neighbors set off fireworks at all hours. Many neighbors call to report, but no one ever shows up. I have zero confidence a higher penalty will make any difference.

    *Matt Richardson – if you have never experienced the devastating effects of fireworks on an animal then you are fortunate. I have only had rescue animals and the terror they can experience is horrific. Don’t judge until you have been up all night with an animal that is panting, vomiting, losing its bowels, etc. because our neighbors are selfish. I imagine folks with PTSD suffer unnecessarily during these days as well. Also, you can Google burn bans in Snohomish County and get all the answers you seek.

    1. Respect to you Isabella. You’re making a case against fireworks in general. Dogs can’t tell the difference between the boom made by my fire works verse those set off during the show put on by the chamber. If we’re concerned about animals, I’d imagine the foxes and deers and salmon are terrified too. These efforts, in my opinion, are about ending tradition.

      1. All traditions are not worthy ones. Perhaps people in the past had better judgement when using fireworks; today there’s too often damage to people and property that out-weighs tolerating them.

        1. The Nihilists in The Big Lebowski sort of agree with that. A tradition by itself doesn’t offer much, but in concert with other traditions is an integral part of a national identity. There’s only two directions to go when the national identity is lost; bigger towards globalism or smaller towards a failed state. The US struck the right balance between Uganda [which is dog-eat-dog], and China were it is [people-eat-dog]. I’d rather be a doggo here having to deal with fireworks one night a year, than anywhere else.


  8. Matt:
    I forgot to thank you for your service in my earlier response – thank you!

    I don’t understand the relevance of your response referencing people eating dogs. It’s an education I do not need as I’ve been to China more than 30 times, and to S.E. Asia dozens of times.

    1. I really appreciate you and your service Ron. You are constant mentor and a much better communicator.

      I am a bit obsessed with how humans value dogs more than humans. If aliens came here they’d probably imagine dogs own us. Dogs even spread covid but we dont make them wear masks.

      1. Matt, what a great business idea. Time to start making masks for dogs. I bet people by the millions of purchase them. I should look up and see how many dog owners there are in the USA.

  9. Matt, for example, I once had a neighbor in a condo whose idea of “freedom” was to drop firecrackers down onto my lanai. Boy, what a way to celebrate the 4th. If you want to replace the word “selfish” with jerk or a$$hole that works too…

  10. Disney World, and Disneyland, also use fireworks to celebrate. People specifically purchase houses near those locations to see the fireworks displays.

    Fireworks were invented long after animals were around. How many years have we been using fireworks to celebrate? It’s not until recently that I’ve heard any humans talk about animals being affected negatively. I do wonder when the chatter started.

    1. The “chatter” started when people actually came to realize that animals are in fact affected negatively by sudden loud noises.

      On July 4 this year I had to hold my 15 year old Border Collie tightly in my lap because of the noise of the fireworks outside.

      You do raise an good point, however. Any Fire Marshall will tell you that it’s a preferable thing to let the pro’s at places like Disney World handle the fireworks (and closer to home maybe let the pros at South County Fire host a demonstration), rather than let Junior blow out his eardrums while freelancing with the ordnance that he bought at Boom City …

      p.s. when I was a kid I wanted to live in Disneyland, not just near it.

  11. Matt, what a great business idea. Time to start making masks for dogs. I bet people by the millions of purchase them. I should look up and see how many dog owners there are in the USA.

  12. Notwithstanding dogs and vets, fireworks injure and even kill people every year. Why is there opposition to banning them? “Tradition” is not always a valid justification for dangerous behaviors. The great UW quarterback Bob Schloredt was blinded in one eye when a youthful fireworks episode went awry. He succeeded in spite of that injury, but that and many similar injuries every year simply make me wonder why people still risk themselves and others with this dangerous behavior. In addition to the physical dangers, the damage to property that occasionally occurs when untrained amateurs are setting off the fireworks cements the need to limit fireworks to professionals.

  13. Never liked the “people get injured” argument because I don’t believe in a bubble wrap society where the goal is for every single person every single day to not get a boo boo or the world is ending. People die hunting so ban hunting, people die fishing so ban fishing, people die riding bikes so ban bikes, people die walking to the store so ban walking, lets just have everyone stay home all the time where it is safe… but people die at home as well.

  14. Anthony is right again. There is a certain amount of risk in just every day living and in the end no one makes it out alive. Fireworks being a cause of personal injury and death, probably aren’t the main reasons to discourage their use but maybe worth a mention here and there.

    My objection to fireworks is that they are more annoying to man and beast than they are enjoyable or useful. In a managed environment, like the City Chamber sponsored annual display (pre-Covid), they are a tolerable annoyance to some and a major pleasure to many (two legged variety). I enjoy watching them from my home but I could live without hearing them and experiencing the hoards of people who invade my neighborhood to see and hear them. Private use is just plain annoying but big fines and less than enthusiastic policing aren’t going to do anything about it and its not going to go away or get any better. The products are sold legally in other jurisdictions and used illegally in our jurisdiction. People only obey the laws that they want to obey and everyone has his or her own view of what constitutes “freedom.” The police have an impossible job, but do the best they can I think.

    1. I grew up in Vancouver, BC, where (for some inexplicable reason) fireworks are lit off on Halloween, and the neighbourhood use of them would be at least as intense as anything that we see on July 4. On October 31, 1981 at around 11:00 pm a good friend of mine was burned to death in her family home, when some young people threw a firework onto their porch as a prank. By the time the family woke up and realized the house was on fire the parents got out, but their daughter did not (they said that they could hear her screaming for them upstairs). The only “bubble” that they were “wrapped” in that night was the (nominal) comfort and security of their own home, minding their own business (so Aversano is for once correct, turns out some people do in fact die in their own homes …).

      I have on a few occasions bought and used “private” fireworks, but I am happy to see them go the way of the Pterodactyl if that is what the city/county wants. They can be very dangerous, they are offensive to some, annoying to many, and it is a dumb “tradition” in any event. My nephew is a firefighter in Vancouver, BC, and he tells me that they attended 20 structural fires caused by fireworks last Halloween, causing over $400,000.00 in damage – I don’t have local numbers for our July 4, but what would we think if an arsonist had done that in Seattle on one night? Still no big deal? For me it is, so I vote that we continue to support the Chamber’s July 4 community event (supervised by South County Fire), support our Council, and be done with it.

      My friend’s name was Annalise. I still love you.

  15. Paul if your choices in life are dictated by negative outcomes do you not drive a car because someone drove recklessly and killed someone? People have gotten poisoned in restaurants do you not go out to eat? People drown, and specifically in Edmonds, do you not go look at the water? How is it you use a computer when someone has been killed with one?

    1. Anthony, our lives are constantly guided, influenced and informed by both positive and negative outcomes (at least they should be, otherwise a person has lost the ability to learn).

      I am not an “absolutist”; as I wrote, I have still purchased and used “private” fireworks on occasion (and have tried to use them carefully and safely), and I am not telling anyone else what to do. I am merely saying that my life experiences (this one having been a very negative one) have influenced my thinking, and for that reason – while I am in favour of individual liberty generally – I am also in support of the Council’s initiatives to strictly enforce a ban on “private” fireworks, if that is what they propose to do.

      If my friend Ali were able to speak to me today, she would surely ask “have you learned nothing from that day?” If I get the chance to some day answer her, I will tell her “sure I did”.

    2. I believe that your comments on this topic are irrational. Virtually every activity that you mention is something that’s beneficial or necessary; playing with fireworks is something that can be left to the experts.

      1. Ron, why allow anyone to have a Corvette? No one needs a car that can go over 80mph. It’s more dangerous to speed than to set off a bottle rocket. Best leave racing to the experts. Our elders I think, oft, believe rights for me when I was young, but not for thee while I am older.

        1. Companies can pretty much manufacture whatever they wish, but there usually are controls placed on their products – for example there are speed limits for autos.

        2. Ron, So speed limits on cars are the same as prohibition on fireworks? States and municipalities that prohibit fireworks seem to still have fire work accidents, just like people who wear masks still seem to get CV-19. It’s a fact that I admit to: Illegal fireworks are more fun than legal ones. I’ve set them off in the city. What’s statue of limitations? Edmonds is creating counter culture, just like one when alcohol was banned, or abortions were banned, just like the drug counter-culture people are arguing to re-integrate by legalizing drugs. Really fireworks aren’t a big deal just onto themselves, but in concert with all the other smile-taxing policies it matters. There’s a gun counter-culture that seems to be more exacerbated by the speed limits.

          Ultimately the timing of this punitive action against fireworks couldn’t be more weird. This year our Mayor fast-tracked BLM protests in the wake of canceling the 4th of July parade. I don’t think Edmonds loves America [as much]. I think the “professional” firework display has it’s days number too. We like our dogs (lest forget the deerses, and foxes, and fishes that might be afraid or booms once a year), and we don’t like Americases. I love the crows and wonder how they feel about America.

  16. I am not a “bubble” person, but fireworks can pose an unnecessary danger to others when used by inexperienced individuals. Driving can be dangerous, but at least training is required prior to use. There’s a difference. Many aspects of life have risk to them, but risk situations that can significantly impact and/or
    harm others are pointless.

  17. I can see both Anthony and Ron’s points of view here. Trying to wrap my head around anything about the public or private use of fireworks having much to do with any rationality in the first place? Rationally speaking, these things are loud, fire and heat producing, simulate the sounds and sights of modern (post gun powder) warfare and over all have little to no practical reason for use either publicly or privately. To many they are a symbol of our “Freedom” but I can’t find much rationality in that concept either. I will say they are pretty cool after Aqua Sox and Mariners baseball games, but rational? Not so much.

    The police have had enough bad press of late. I say, make the fire persons give out the five hundred dollar fines and jail terms locally. In a sane world, the fireworks could be set off only in the jurisdictions where they are legal and there would be roadblocks and confiscation of the product if it left that jurisdiction. Like “white lightning,” Thunder Road and all that. Look out for them “Revenuers.”

  18. Great question Darrol. Sometimes it comes down to, do we really want to regulate what we are trying to regulate? That seems to be the crux of the fireworks question. Also, does a given regulation of something create more problems than it solves? Prohibition of alcohol for one and the modern war on drugs for another, as possible examples of regulation that doesn’t really regulate and pretty much doesn’t work.

    In Edmonds we are quite anxious to regulate each other’s personal freedoms. I just repaired and remodeled the deck on my house with no increase in size or illegal intrusion into what is commonly known as the “view corridor” but is essentially code required set backs from streets and ally ways (no guarantee of protecting views). I had to fork over almost $600 in fees for a permit from the city to do this and they delayed my permit until I proved that my deck re- structure (which was obviously lower than my house) wasn’t violating the height codes. Total nonsense in my opinion, but you pay and jump thru the hoops in the name of regulating for the good of all.

    There’s another big battle brewing in Edmonds over people being allowed to build Accessory Dwelling Units on larger lots. Seems we don’t want to disturb what green belts we have left or hurt the value of large homes built on relatively small lots. Last weeks city council meeting was interesting to say the least.

  19. Edmonds has a lot of various laws on the books. We have code enforcers if you break one of these codes or laws.. They come out tell whomever they have broken a law. Sometimes it’s the police. They also tell them what the fine will be. That is the end of it. Most people who break these laws know that nothing is ever followed through. I know many people that have experienced that. I have experienced it twice. So they will Create another law that will make fireworks illegal. Why if there is little to no follow through?

    1. Because of a limited staff, codes are typically only enforced after a complaint is received by the city. I have suggested in the past that the code enforcement office be instructed to spend one day each week walking the streets to search out code violations. It is very likely that there are violations taking place that are more serious than some of those being reported.

  20. Mayor initiated fireworks legislation was adopted September 22, 2020. The Meeting Minutes are interesting to read.

    The Agenda Packet included the following:

    At the July 28th City Council meeting an updated fireworks ordinance was introduced and discussed. Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Zweber, fire marshal for South County Fire (SCF), spoke in support of the proposed code amendment. He stated that the use of personal fireworks has consequences that areboth predictable and preventable. He described firework impacts to communities including the following:

    · Fireworks put people, property and the environment at risk every 4th of July and can result in numerous things including property loss with the potential of serious economic impacts.
    · Since 2005 SCF has had more than $3.5 million in property loss related to fireworks.
    · This past 4th of July, SCF responded to a fireworks incident where a citizen lost a portion of their hand while trying to throw a mortar.
    · Deaths related to fireworks occurred in both Marysville and Mt. Vernon this year.
    · The danger, stress and anxiety to pets and wildlife are widespread, including an increase in lost dogs and cats in the days before, during, and after fireworks use.

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