Fireworks storage permit not obtained; investigation continues

POULSBO — When Poulsbo’s 3rd of July fireworks show started, many folks were awed by their caliber, knowing the show almost didn’t go on. Since the loss of the original fireworks in a fluke explosion June 25, Ron Krell, president of Viking Fest Corp. which organizes the 3rd of July, implored the public to donate.

Viking Fest Corp. has received about $3,200 for Robert Nitz, owner of Aurora Fireworks which supplied Poulsbo’s show and who lost $50,000 worth of stock, Krell said.

Nitz was storing his fireworks for Poulsbo’s 3rd of July, Bainbridge Island’s 4th of July, and Silverdale’s Whaling Days at Belfair Truck and Auto Wrecking. Nitz lost his fireworks when Parris Shepard, the wrecking yard owner, struck the storage container with a .308 caliber bullet while testing out a new gun.

Buying all the fireworks at retail in time for the shows, rather than at wholesale price, set Nitz back a total of $80,000.

The Mason County Fire District is completing its investigation of the wrecking yard incident, alongside the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives. While Chief Sheriff Deputy Dean Byrd said so far there is no indication a crime was committed, the county’s concern is whether the fireworks were safely stored.

Larry Waters, building inspector in the Mason County Department of Community Development, said no county permit has ever been filed by the property owner, Elva James of Bremerton, for fireworks storage at that wrecking yard. Shepard leases the land from James.

Waters said permits were filed with the ATF bureau and the state Fire Marshal, but not with Mason County Community Development Department.

“The ultimate responsibility is the property owner,” Waters said.

Once Waters receives the fire department’s report, his department will determine if any violations occurred and order any necessary fines. If the fire department determines there was a criminal violation, the report will be forwarded to the county prosecutor. It will be a few weeks before any violations are determined, Waters said.

The key question in this case is the type of container needed to store fireworks, Waters said. Nitz said his fireworks were approved by ATF to be stored in the container he owned, a Type 4 magazine. But Waters said it is the local jurisdiction’s permitting process that ensures the right type of storage container is being used.

The Code of Federal Regulation for fireworks states that display fireworks should be stored in a Type 4 container, which is required to be fire-resistant, weather-resistant and theft-resistant, but not bullet-resistant. However, the county was not informed the storage container was located on the wrecking yard property.

Any violations that come out of this incident will be based on lack of the permit and how the bullet was able to detonate fireworks classified as “low explosives,” according to Waters.


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