When – or whether – to call 911 about fireworks

July 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm | In Holidays, Safety, West Seattle news | 24 Comments

Though all fireworks are illegal in Seattle (except for sanctioned displays like the one over Lake Union on the 4th), you’re likely seeing or hearing them every night this time of year. When do you call 911? Do you call at all? In an attempt to answer those questions, the State Fire Marshal shared a media advisory today that included a chart created with input from emergency-dispatch centers around the state. We’ve uploaded the chart here:

When and how to report fireworks violations


Again, ALL fireworks are illegal in Seattle, as well as in nearby cities such as Burien and Tukwila – but some are legal in the adjacent unincorporated areas of King County. Here’s the list of fireworks rules (including when they can be sold and used, in places where they are allowed) statewide.

24 Comments

  1. So they are sort of only wink wink nudge nudge “illegal” is the basic takeaway. Technically yes, but unless you shoot a roman candle through the window of a passing police car its pretty much a free for all.

    Comment by Jeff — 2:42 pm July 1, 2013 #

  2. Limited resources I guess..

    Funny: “If your neighbor is making fireworks in his garage…”

    Comment by B — 3:00 pm July 1, 2013 #

  3. I can’t remember anyone ever answering the local police non-emergency phone number when called.

    Comment by DTK — 3:43 pm July 1, 2013 #

  4. Wait. “The Neighbor is using illegal fireworks”. That’s always true, so always call 911? But no one cares about fireworks at 1am, so don’t bother? That’s some mixed messages there…

    Comment by Douglas Kilpatrick — 3:43 pm July 1, 2013 #

  5. Fireworks are illegal in the city limits, so only call 911 if they are M80′s. Mmmm, K. Nice chart WSP!

    Comment by schwaggy — 3:57 pm July 1, 2013 #

  6. Douglas, I think they only want you to call if you can tell them exactly where the fireworks are coming from (such as your neighbor’s house.) But you’re right, it does seem ambiguous.

    Comment by KBear — 4:20 pm July 1, 2013 #

  7. A few years ago on a very dry 4th week some kids kept lighting long strings of fire crackers in a small but fairly wooded park/frisbee golf course across from my apartment in Northgate. I was pretty worried there was a fire danger, it was broad daylight and the precinct was about 4 blocks down the street. I called the non-emergency number with hopes a car heading back to the precinct would drive through the park on the way. Not sure if they did, but it stopped that afternoon. So yes, they did answer the non-emergency number.

    Comment by trickycoolj — 4:22 pm July 1, 2013 #

  8. Apparently the products currently labeled M-80′s aren’t real M-80′s. The fake M-80′s aren’t illegal because they have less power. All the advisory’s I’m reading say “M-80′s” are illegal, despite the presence of the fake M-80′s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-80_%28explosive%29

    Comment by mike — 4:54 pm July 1, 2013 #

  9. why bother with this if they most definitely not enforce anything?

    Comment by flimflam — 4:57 pm July 1, 2013 #

  10. I actually called the non-emergency number last night because one of our oh so considerate neighbors was already blasting off fireworks all afternoon. I did get someone live and I see an incident report on the 911 log, but I don’t know if they ever talked to anyone at the house. Is there anywhere I can look to tell? My worry is more due to fire danger especially with it being so hot and dry these next few days. It’s all fun and games until you burn down the neighbors house!

    Comment by anon — 5:08 pm July 1, 2013 #

  11. Disregard this so-called guidance. If you feel you need to contact the police, call 911.

    Comment by Dave — 9:58 pm July 1, 2013 #

  12. What if my neighbor is making sparklers or snakes in his garage is that cool

    Comment by Nick — 10:22 pm July 1, 2013 #

  13. I’ve given up on calling 9-1-1 around the 4th of July for any fireworks related issues. The fact that the incident I called in last year, regarding a boom loud enough it shook my house and it was ignored, then 10 minutes later I heard on the scanner about a fire a block away in that direction. It’s useless to even waste my time trying to save a house or life of somebody when my calls are ignored. How about we enforce the LAW of no fireworks in city limits, period.

    Comment by Mike — 10:36 pm July 1, 2013 #

  14. Except in Everett — we don’t want to pull the police away from their undercover work at the hooter flashing coffee stands……

    Comment by Jeff — 10:47 pm July 1, 2013 #

  15. The Seattle police department web page basically says the same thing, but explains it better – the problem is that on July 4 in particular, the 911 system gets overloaded with non-emergency calls.
    .

    http://www.seattle.gov/police/prevention/seasonal/July4.htm
    .

    So the question is, are you calling the police because the fireworks are creating an immediate emergency? Then you call 911. If you are calling because fireworks are illegal in Seattle, then you can still call the police, but they’d really, really like it if you called the non-emergency number so your call doesn’t block someone else’s call about some kid who just blew his hand off, or a house that is actually on fire.
    .
    Where it gets strange is when you think a kid is ABOUT TO blow his hand off, but he hasn’t actually done it yet. Neither page addresses that sort of scenario.

    Comment by community member — 11:03 pm July 1, 2013 #

  16. How many fingers does one need anyway?

    Comment by DTK — 11:50 pm July 1, 2013 #

  17. Also call 911 if you witness someone shooting off fireworks on the freeway overpass. This actually happened a couple years ago. I called non-emergency (it was on the 5th as well) and they told me 911 applies in this scenario.

    Comment by monosyllabic girl — 8:04 am July 2, 2013 #

  18. Reactions to 9-1-1 calls are like this, injury to somebody is the responsibility of medics, preventing the injury before it requires medics is the responsibility of the police.

    Comment by Mike — 8:34 am July 2, 2013 #

  19. My husband works for city of Seattle 911 dispatch. For most hours of the day, there are non-emergency operators available…7 a.m. to 11 p.m. there is a full staff and I believe one on graveyard. The challenge this time of year is that for every one instance of fireworks getting set off, there are an average of, and this is no exaggeration, 5-15 phone calls, many of which come in on the 911 emergency line….and that’s prior to the 4th. They do the best they can, but we have to remember there are other things going on in our city more urgent than a nuisance neighbor. Don’t get me wrong, we have kids and pets and I loathe the explosions and inconsiderate neighbors who light off fireworks for the entire week leading up to the 4th. But in fairness, these operators and the police department are doing the best they can. They have to take a report for every call they take and if there are the resources available an officer will be sent. They have an all hands on deck policy too so you can imagine that this is a crazy time for the men and women who serve our city.

    Comment by Westside Mama — 11:04 pm July 2, 2013 #

  20. I live in Sunrise Heights and last night was like Armageddon. I do not understand the blatant disregard the SPD has for enforcing the law. I do believe that a few huge high profile fines would help reduce future use of illegal fireworks in neighborhoods. I asked the Mayor how many fines were issued last year, and the response from his office was “none” on record.

    Comment by yetrac — 5:17 am July 5, 2013 #

  21. My neighbors decided to join in the fun this year so I called the non emergency line and got stuck in a phone tree and gave up. I expressed a few choice words to my neighbors instead and the fireworks stopped.

    Comment by Julie — 11:05 am July 5, 2013 #

  22. Rainier Beach was a warzone for at least 8 hours last night. I listened to the scanner most of the night and aside from fire responding to house fires caused by, guess what, fireworks, the police did not respond to any reports of illegal fireworks being shot off. Is it my responsibility to walk the street and get the specifics on the offenders for the police?
    Fireworks ban seems similar to the cell phone ban while driving, SPD says its illegal because thats cool not because they enforce it.
    And if the ass-wipe down the street blows his hand off while blasting does that get him a fine? as well as a stump?

    Comment by Southender — 11:21 am July 5, 2013 #

  23. It is increasingly clear that the decision to outlaw fireworks in this city was a stupid mistake.
    .
    First, the law is unenforceable, and everyone knows it. This adds the acceptance of lawlessness in general, which is deeply demoralizing and corrosive for city residents.
    .
    Second, the illegality of smaller fireworks creates a perverse incentive for people to go out and buy huge bombs.
    .
    Instead of lighting off harmless, quiet, legal fireworks, many otherwise law-abiding citizens go out and get M-80s, thinking in for a penny, in for a pound.
    .
    I enjoyed 4th of July fireworks for decades without excessive noise and danger–all during a time when fireworks were legal.

    Comment by JoAnne — 2:05 pm July 5, 2013 #

  24. Arbor Heights was like Damascus last night. My dog was loaded with drugs, but it made little difference. I am ENRAGED at the attitude SPD takes toward this illegal activity. Mark Jamieson actually announced on television yesterday that they would not be handing out citations unless a rocket was actually set off in front of an officer. WTF??!!! Why are our police chiefs making public statements proclaiming that they will not enforce the law? IT’S THEIR JOB. This attitude has got to change.

    Comment by enid — 4:28 pm July 5, 2013 #

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