Fourth of July safety: PEMCO’s poll finds most families celebrate with fireworks, but not all know the limits



​​​SEATTLE – For many Northwest families, Fourth of July wouldn’t be the same without fireworks. According to the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance, nearly two-thirds of residents in Washington and the Portland, Ore., area either watch a fireworks display or set off their own fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. However, the poll also shows uncertainty among revelers about whether or not it’s legal to light fireworks in their own communities.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds that 32 percent of households in Washington and 36 percent of households in Portland set off their own fireworks around the Fourth of July, and of those, people under age 35 and families with children in the house are significantly more likely than their counterparts to set off their own fireworks.

About one-third of Washingtonians and 43 percent of Portlanders under age 35 say their families “always” watch or set off fireworks, while just 15 percent of those 55 or older say the same.

The laws permitting fireworks usage do vary between municipalities, but according to the PEMCO poll, about 14 percent of respondents admit they don’t know the restrictions in their community. What’s more, 15 percent admit they set off their own fireworks even though they know it’s illegal to do so.  

“If you’re uncertain what’s legal, visit your local government website and brush up on the rules,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “Ignorance probably won’t excuse you if police actively enforce the restrictions.”

In Washington, it’s legal to sell, purchase, or set off fireworks within the state from June 28 through July 5, but residents must follow any additional restrictions enacted by counties and cities.  

For instance, setting off fireworks is banned year-round in Seattle and many other King County cities, including Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond. But some King County cities – such as Auburn, Kent, and Bothell – make exceptions specifically around the July 4 holiday.

Spokane, Tacoma, and Everett also ban the sale and consumer use of fireworks year-round, but Lewis County cities follow the state law that allows limited consumer use on certain dates.

In Oregon, state law forbids the possession, use, or sale of fireworks that fly, explode, or travel more than six feet on the ground or 12 inches in the air, which includes bottle rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers. Legal fireworks, which include sparklers, cone fountains, ground spinners and others, can be sold with a permit and used from June 23 through July 6 each year.  

“It’s important to light fireworks responsibly and safely, because even the so-called ‘safe and sane’ variety injure kids and adults each year,” Osterberg added.  

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 200 people visit emergency rooms every day in the month surrounding the Fourth of July, with more than half of them suffering burns to the hands or face.

To help the public stay safe, the CPSC recommends lighting only one firework at a time and moving back quickly, never re-lighting fireworks that don’t ignite fully, and keeping a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of a fire.  

Safety becomes an even greater concern when children are nearby, and PEMCO’s poll found that families with kids are more likely to set off or watch fireworks than those without. Of families with children, 58 percent in Washington and 60 percent in Portland say lighting or watching fireworks is part of their Fourth of July celebration, compared to 37 percent of Washington and 38 percent of Portland families without kids.

“And don’t forget to restrain your pets – each year, many are scared by fireworks and run away,” Osterberg said.

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2013.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 400 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent and +/- 5.0 percent respectively at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit