Time to reconsider fireworks on M.I.

The City of Mercer Island's stepped-up enforcement this year of its ban on fireworks from public property -- parks, school grounds and open spaces -- is welcome and overdue. Consumer fireworks, the so-called ``safe and sane'' kind, are still legal to use on private property, but only on the Fourth of July holiday. There will be more police, firefighters and parks employees on duty that day to enforce the law and educate the public.

The idea is to use this year as a measuring tool as a basis for further refining the city's laws. A public process and discussion are also in the works regarding fireworks on the Island.

The City Council voted 6-1 to keep the sale and use of legal fireworks on private property just three weeks ago, against the recommendation of the city's Public Safety Department to ban its use altogether. The fact that Mercer Island is now one of the few cities left in King County that still allows setting off fireworks is a draw for people living in surrounding areas, increasing the risk and danger.

Though there hasn't been a major incident related to fireworks in many years on the Island, there were an estimated 9,300 fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency rooms across the country in 2003, according to a June 2004 report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. An estimated 6,800 of those injuries occurred between June 20 and July 20, 2003.

If safety for park users and surrounding homes are the reason behind Mercer Island's ban on fireworks in parks, then the city may want to consider a ban on fireworks entirely. It takes only one serious injury or one house fire to remind us that the use of any fireworks, safe and sane or otherwise, is not without risk.

We can still celebrate the country's independence on the Fourth of July -- at public fireworks displays in the surrounding area and Mercer Island's own display during Summer Celebration July 8-10.

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