Bellevue officials are testing out a temporary heat map tool to target illegal fireworks that can lead to noise complaints and injuries. With high temperatures predicted for July 4, there’s also fears of wildfires sparked during celebrations.
“Fireworks are dangerous,” Bellevue fire marshal Ken Carlson said in a press release. “Every year people show up in emergency rooms with firework-related injuries. It’s just not worth the risk of getting hurt or starting a fire.”
Janet Pearce, with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, said despite King County’s current low wildfire danger status, they’re still very concerned. The area is in severe drought and the summer is predicted to be warmer and dryer.
“Our stuff is drying out very quickly,” Pearce said. “Any rain we’re going to get … we’re blessed to have it.”
Anyone can access the special reporting section on Bellevuewa.gov or on the phone application from 8 p.m. on July 4 to 2 a.m. on July 5. Users — reporting anonymously or not — will be able to add an activity address or move a location pin, to give law enforcement an idea of where the fireworks are being heard and seen.
The inputted data will then be added to a heat map with “hot spots” pointing to areas with the most activity. Dedicated crews of police and fire officials will head out quickly to areas with the most reports, said Meeghan Black with the Bellevue Police Department.
The hope is that the reporting tool will reduce the number of firework 911 calls that swamp phone lines during the holiday.
“The problem is when 911 is flooded with non-emergency calls, dispatchers are busy taking down that information and not available to answer calls for true emergencies,” Black said.
There’s also the problem of knowing where the fireworks are being set off. Often times, Black said, it feels like the fireworks are being set off nearby, when in reality it could be miles away. This makes it difficult for officers to track down culprits and issue citations. Last year nine citations were written in Bellevue, according to Black.
“We’re hoping if there’s enough in one area, we can zero in on the location,” she said.
Those caught lighting off fireworks face a $1,000 fine. It’s still less than the fine imposed in Burien this year. Residents there can be hit with fines up to $5,000 starting next year.
For Bellevue residents who opt to use the heat map tool, there will not be an individual response to your report. However, the report will be documented. Residents are asked to still call 911 in the case of fire, injury or imminent threat of danger.