In response to last year’s historic wildfire season, new fireworks rules in Chewelah would give the Mayor the authority to prohibit the discharge of fireworks during periods of “extreme fire danger.” The new ordinance will replace rules established in 1994, but will not take effect until next year, in June 2017. Fireworks ordinances adopted by a city that are more restrictive than state law can become effective no sooner than one year after being adopted, according to Washington state law. The Chewelah City Council adopted the new ordinance at its last regular meeting on June 1, 2016.
Under the new rule, a mayor may impose a prohibition on fireworks during periods of “extreme fire danger” after consulting with the fire chief. Extreme fire danger is defined in the ordinance as “a period of hot, dry weather, accompanied by low fuel moistures.”
Other provisions in the law set dates for the sale and discharge of fireworks. Fireworks are allowed to be sold on July 2-5 and December 29-31 of each year. Fireworks can be discharged until 11 p.m. on July 3; until midnight on July 4; and between the hours of 6 p.m. on December 31 and 1 a.m. on January 1.
Permits will still be available for fireworks use during special events.
Violators of the new rules are subject to penalties up to $500 and thirty days in jail. The council unanimously approved the ordinance.
In other business, the council heard a presentation from Chewelah Fire Department Chief Dave DeVeau with an update on the department’s training efforts.
“I want to brag a little about our firefighters,” DeVeau said about his department.
He described their recent structure fire response drills as as a way to increase efficiency and safety.
“Firefighting is a very choreographed [process],” DeVeau explained, adding that an efficient system is a safe system for firefighters.
Prior to DeVeau joining the department five years ago, he said there was virtually no incident command system in place.
“It was awful at first … horrible,” he said describing his earliest training drills.
In recent drills, firefighters were assigned to random teams that competed for the fastest time in setting up a fire scene.
In the drills, each firefighter has an assigned task and the teams are timed from the moment they arrive on scene until water is flowing to the “attack line.” In order to properly set up a fire scene, the driver must locate the nearest water supply and position the truck safely; the officer must size up the situation, establish the incident command and do a 360-degree assessment of the scene; and two firefighters must lay the water hose and properly vent the structure before attacking the fire. Any safety violations during the drill result in time added to the team’s total.
DeVeau reported that recently the drill times ranged from 3 minutes, 18 seconds at the slow end to the fastest time of 2 minutes, 6 seconds.
He emphasized that the objective of the drills is to ensure firefighter safety.
“I never want to see a firefighter get hurt on a fire scene,” DeVeau said.
“I set out when I first came here to make us the best structure fire fighting department in the county. I’d put us against anybody,” he said proudly about his department.
DeVeau is a retired firefighter from the Austin Fire Department in Texas.
“I thank the department for their diligence in training,” Mayor Dorothy Knauss said following DeVeau’s presentation.
By Jared Arnold/The Independent Staff