Whitefish Bans Fireworks

City council enacts emergency ordinance banning personal displays in the city, but public event will proceed

By Tristan Scott

The Whitefish City Council on July 1 enacted an emergency ordinance banning the use of private fireworks displays in the city.

The ban goes into effect immediately, continues for 90 days and includes Iron Horse Private Golf Club and Recreation Community.

The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce’s public fireworks display at City Beach will proceed on the Fourth of July, but with extreme caution, said Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld.

Fire Chief Joe Page can cancel the event at any time if weather and fire danger conditions warrant it. The ban goes into effect immediately, and lasts for 90 days. However, given that Whitefish already bans the discharge of fireworks inside city limits except on July 3-4, the effect of the ban is only relevant over that two-day period.

The council unanimously passed the emergency ordinance after hearing public testimony on both sides of the issue at a special meeting Wednesday morning.

“The city council had to balance the effect of the ban on private displays and private purchases of fireworks versus the high fire danger and public safety and health,” according to a press release from Whitefish City Manager Chuck Stearns.

In banning the private use of fireworks, Whitefish joins a host of other municipalities that have banned or are considering banning the use of fireworks, including Flathead, due to the persistent heat, dry conditions and extreme fire danger.

Missoula, Lake, Ravalli and Lincoln counties had instituted bans by Tuesday afternoon, while Butte fire officials were asking county commissioners to do the same. Flathead County will consider banning fireworks within the county boundaries on Thursday.

Emergency services coordinators for Lake County along with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the cities of Polson, Ronan and St. Ignatius agreed at a meeting to ban the use of fireworks immediately.

The professionally run fireworks display at Whitefish’s City Beach on the Fourth of July will likely have an exception, according to city manager Chuck Stearns, given that the show is held over water and the fire department is on hand.

Lincoln Chute, the Flathead County’s fire warden and fire service area manager, said the area will be in Stage 1 fire restrictions starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 3, which mean campfires are prohibited except in designated areas, like fire rings at developed campgrounds.

Anyone going camping for the Fourth of July weekend should check in with the state and national forests for a list of which campgrounds will allow fires, he said.

Stage 1 restrictions also prohibit fireworks in all timber areas. The Stage 1 restrictions affect Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, and Sanders counties, state land within these counties and the Flathead National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, and Glacier National Park.

The restrictions are necessary due to the dry, hot weather so far this summer, Chute said.

Fire danger in Flathead County was bumped to Very High on June 30, he said.

Questions may be directed to City Manager Stearns at 406-863-2406 or Fire Chief Page at 406-863-2491.

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