Snap, Crackle, Pop -- SPOKANE -- The Fourth of July is a great day for celebration -- barbecues, parades and fireworks abound. But some traditional Fourth of July activities are dangerous and can turn out to be harmful if people aren't safe.
Last year, fireworks injured about 224 people and started more than 1,000 fires in the state of Washington, according to a report released by the State Fire Marshal's Office. There was also more than $2 million of property damage due to fireworks-related incidents. But the consequences aren't just physical.
"If you are using illegal fireworks and you start an uncontrolled fire, you are going to be on the hook," says Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Department. "It could be very expensive for what is basically a very short thrill."
In 2003, illegal fireworks caused 108 reported injuries.
Through its "Celebrate Safely" and "Celebrate Legally" companion campaigns, the Fire Marshal's Office is trying to educate the public about the danger involved in using fireworks.
"We certainly encourage people to attend public [fireworks] displays," says Angela Foster, chief deputy fire marshal for the state. "They're definitely the safest. You can still enjoy the display from a distance."
If you are going to buy your own fireworks -- and you can check out the Washington State Patrol Web site to find out if it is legal to do so in your county -- Foster says to make sure and buy them from a licensed retailer.
"Then, at least you're guaranteed they're legal," she adds.
Tank Trouble -- COEUR d'ALENE -- The Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA) has joined forces with Coeur d'Alene residents in an ongoing battle against Interstate Concrete and Asphalt. The company wants to install two 20,000-gallon diesel fuel tanks, one at each of their Coeur d'Alene Asphalt Batch Plants, which are located on Murphy Road and Wyoming Avenue.
"These large tanks cannot handle a catastrophic failure," says Barry Rosenberg, executive director of KEA. "This is especially important because the location of the tanks could be uphill from the gravel pit, which is only about 50 feet above the aquifer."
The KEA, along with several residents, is asking for additional secondary containment systems for the fuel tanks, which are capable of holding 110 percent of the contents. The concern, says KEA, is the aquifer, which is the sole source of drinking water for 400,000 people in the Inland Northwest.
There will be a public hearing regarding this issue on Wednesday, July 28, at 10 am at the County Administration Building, 451 Government Way. Public comments are welcome until that time and can be sent by e-mail, fax or mail.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to (208) 446-1071 or mail to the County Building
Spending Choices -- SPOKANE -- The city of Spokane is asking its citizens for help trimming $5.5 million from its budget, and Mayor Jim West wants your opinion on how to do it. Engaging citizens in city budget planning is called Priorities of Government.
"This [process] is new for us and is a new trend for government budgeting across the nation," says Marlene Feist, spokeswoman for the mayor. "Washington state was the first to try this when they worked to cut $2.5 billion for their 2003-05 budget."
The idea behind Priorities of Government is for citizens to participate in a survey where they "buy" city services and programs, which have been divided into eight main categories. The city can see where citizens want their tax dollars to go, and citizens often learn more about how a municipality creates its budget.
"The mayor wants this to be a transparent process," Feist says. "We want the public to know what's in the city budget."
This process derives from Peter Hutchingson's book The Price of Government. Feist says Hutchingson is consulting with the city while it works with citizens on the budget cuts.
The city has links to the survey at www.spokanecity.org. Survey forms are also available at City Hall, public libraries and community centers. Two public meetings are scheduled: the first is today, July 1, at the East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone St., at 6:30 pm; the second meeting is Friday, July 9, in the City Council Chambers in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., at 6 pm. All surveys are due by July 9.