Editorial: Fourth of July: Could we consider quieter options for island celebrations?

The Fourth of July is fading from memory as we head into Vashon’s largest celebration, the Strawberry Festival. But before the holiday becomes too far in the past, we think it is worth another look.

The community fireworks show was again excellent and made possible by generous donors — and we appreciate both the festivities and those who fund it year after year.

But as we calmed pets ourselves, listened to others with extremely frightened animals and checked in with the fire department to tally the fires and potential injuries, we wondered if there might be a better way to celebrate. A celebration with plenty of friends and food and the carefree feel of summer, but with some of the volume turned down just a bit.

Thankfully, there were no serious injurious on the island this year, but the fire department responded to five fires that day, three of which needed their intervention. And some of the stories from people with animals made the fire department’s work sound easy. Grim stories and photos collected on Facebook: a horse that ran through a fence, a wide-eyed dog — wrapped in a thunder shirt, ears flat and looking forlorn — a sheep potentially injured from running frantically up and down the pasture.

At BaaHaus Animal Rescue on Vashon, some 200 animals are currently taking refuge. There the owners give the animals snacks to distract them, play music and try to calm them during the noise. The worst year, co-owner Karen Eliasen said, a pregnant llama new to the rescue delivered her baby prematurely from the stress of the night; it did not survive.

Vashon Island Pet Protectors’ Amy Carey says each year the organization secures safe kennel space on July 4 and a team of volunteers are ready to respond to animals in need. This year about a half a dozen dogs were picked up running scared, and a few more were reported missing but found their way home by morning. But there were notable bright spots: There were no injuries, and all dogs and owners were reunited — which is not always the case. Many community members stepped in to help, too, holding dogs until their owners could be found.

We all know many people are affected by loud fireworks as well, some veterans among them.

It’s true the holiday is just once a year, but surely there is some middle ground. We wonder: Are there any limits as a community we could agree to — or at least begin to consider? How about ending backyard fireworks when the community show ends, about 11 p.m.? Or could we delay the use of personal fireworks until evening, so the whole day did not sound like a Midwest thunderstorm? Or could many of us make personal choices to buy colorful fireworks with plenty of visual appeal, but less noise?

On the holiday, a news story circulated about Banff, Canada, which has switched to “low-noise pyrotechnics.” Several news sites picked up the story, quoting Corrie DiManno, the deputy mayor, saying the community was concerned for nearby wildlife.

“For us, moving to special-effect pyrotechnics helps us to walk the walk, so to speak. We consider ourselves leaders in this environment preservation so we wanted to make sure that we were doing all we can,” DiManno said.

We hope there might be a time soon that the island — and its many holiday guests — might be willing to talk about beginning to walk that walk, too.

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