Have happy -- and safe -- Fourth of July in the Valley

Rules for fireworks are far more restrictive in the city of Walla Walla than other parts of the county.

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Fireworks are very popular and can be a lot of fun. But they can also be extremely dangerous, which is why rules are in place to regulate their use.

Unfortunately, too many don't follow the rules either out of ignorance or, perhaps, obstinance.

Regulations on the sale and use of fireworks are far stricter within the city limits of Walla Walla than they are in the city of College Place and in unincorporated areas of Walla Walla County. In Walla Walla, for example, fireworks that are not permitted travel more than 20 feet off the ground or 15 feet along the ground. Also not permitted are fireworks specifically designed to produce noise -- whistles, booms and bangs -- are not allowed.

It's no accident that the majority of fireworks stands are outside the Walla Walla city limits so the high-flying, bing-bang products can be sold -- the stuff that many customers want.

The differences in laws can be somewhat frustrating and confusing. This is also an extremely emotional issue for many. To some, fireworks are linked to patriotism.

When the Walla Walla City Council considered making the fireworks laws even more restrictive the public reaction was intense with several people declaring their right to celebrate freedom were being violated.

Laws regulating fireworks are certainly constitutional and often prudent. The city imposed the stricter rules for fireworks use in 2002 after citizens complained about the prolonged noise and other abuses.

Like it or not -- and many don't -- that's the law in Walla Walla. Those who violate the city ordinance face a fine. Fireworks can be discharged in Walla Walla only between 9 a.m. July 4 and 1 a.m. July 5.

Keep that in mind when you go shopping for fireworks. If you buy products in College Place or outside the Walla Walla city limits they might not be legal in the city.

Beyond that, please be considerate of your neighbors. Don't light fireworks until dawn, and clean up your mess.

Fireworks should be discharged in open areas away from structures, vehicles and combustible materials like dry grass and weeds.

Independence Day is a wonderful holiday with deep meaning for Americans.

Celebrate it wisely and safely.

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