Run to the Reservation

Just west of the Muckleshoot casino, lies an otherwise dormant overflow parking lot containing more than 25 colorful booths adorned with festive flags, banners, and red cartoon sticks of dynamite proclaiming, “Buy three, get one free!” Photo by Joanna Kresge.

Just west of the Muckleshoot casino, lies an otherwise dormant overflow parking lot containing more than 25 colorful booths adorned with festive flags, banners, and red cartoon sticks of dynamite proclaiming, “Buy three, get one free!”

Most of the year, driving down Auburn Way South through the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation will elicit a few head turns from drivers as they take in the bright colors and flashing lights of the tribe’s self-named casino.

However, during late-June and early-July, there is a much larger, fair-like spectacle to behold. Just west of the casino itself, lies an otherwise dormant overflow parking lot containing more than 25 colorful booths adorned with festive flags, banners, and red cartoon sticks of dynamite proclaiming, “Buy three, get one free!”

“Its retail on steroids,” said John Thompson the owner of three firework stands at the Muckleshoot depot, including Extreme. “Usually you can only do as much as they give you in terms of merchandise; now let a guy loose where there’s no rules and you get a mutated creation of what is in (their) head.”

The sale of legal fireworks on tribal lands is quite commonplace due to the sovereign nature of these lands. Tribes that are federally recognized—such as the Muckleshoot Tribe—possess the authority to govern activities on their land without state government control, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This allows the tribe to sell and detonate outside of the State of Washington’s typical restrictions regarding fireworks.

Moreover, customers patronizing the reservation’s fireworks depot can detonate their purchases in a designated lighting area a short (but safe) walk from the booths.

Customers patronizing Muckleshoot reservation’s fireworks depot can detonate their purchases in a designated lighting area a short (but safe) walk from the booths.

Customers patronizing Muckleshoot reservation’s fireworks depot can detonate their purchases in a designated lighting area a short (but safe) walk from the booths.

“On the Indian reservation, there is a little more leeway on the fireworks (you can buy) and what you can do with them,” said Thompson. “We have the blow-off site right here so people can buy and blow-off right here.”

This feature may not appeal to some living in areas where fireworks are permitted. However for those who live in areas like Tacoma that strictly ban the sale, possession, or detonation of fireworks, this may be the only way to celebrate with a bang. Especially when bans carry a costly fine for infractions.

In addition to monetary consequences, fireworks can also cost the health and safety of friends and loved ones. After all fireworks and fire prevention go hand-in-hand. Lawrena “Nana” Meach, manager of Honest Guys Pyro Station said weather is only one part of preventing fire around fireworks.

“Last year we had no rain at all and this year we have been pummeled,” she said. “So if people are worried about the issues last year with fires, that was just people being reckless, it wasn’t just because of how dry it was.”

For this reason, responsible users should keep a bucket of water and a charged hose nearby for emergencies. Duds and spent casings should be wetted down and placed in a metal bin away from other combustible items. And legal fireworks should never be altered or “beefed up” in any way.

“Its retail on steroids,” said John Thompson of firework stand showmanship. Thompson owns three firework stands at the Muckleshoot depot, including Extreme. “Usually you can only do as much as they give you in terms of merchandise; now let a guy loose where there’s no rules and you get a mutated creation of what is in (their) head.” Photo by Joanna Kresge

“Its retail on steroids,” said John Thompson of firework stand showmanship. Thompson owns three firework stands at the Muckleshoot depot, including Extreme. “Usually you can only do as much as they give you in terms of merchandise; now let a guy loose where there’s no rules and you get a mutated creation of what is in (their) head.”

If patrons have any questions about safety or even which rocket packs the biggest punch, the experienced staff at any of Muckleshoot’s booths are ready to help around the clock in the days leading up to the fourth.

“Honestly it’s like you are working a full time job because you are here for 12 hours a day for about a month,” said Meach, who has been working the booth for nine years. “When it gets closer to the fourth—like now when we’re a week out—we’ll be here for 12 to 18 hours a day; some people are here 24 hours a day.”

Despite the long hours, Meach isn’t complaining. “I got addicted,” she said. “Up here, we say it’s a bug; you get up here and once you sell fireworks it is really hard to leave.”

So it is America’s birthday and you want to celebrate our independence loud and proud, right? Not so fast. Outside of the Indian reservations, the State of Washington and many of its cities have very specific rules for when and where you can light up (if at all). Here are some of the regulations concerning firework detonation around the South Sound this year according to Washington State Fire Marshall’s Office.

Algona: Restricted
July 3rd, noon to 11 p.m.
July 4th, noon to 2 a.m. on July 5th

Auburn: Restricted
July 4th, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Bonney Lake: Restricted
July 3rd, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
July 4th, 9 a.m. to midnight
July 5th, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Fife: Follows State Law
June 28th, noon to 11 p.m.
June 29th to July 3rd, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
July 4th, 9 a.m. to midnight

Gig Harbor: Restricted
July 3rd, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
July 4th, 9 a.m. to midnight
July 5th, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Olympia: Banned

Puyallup: Restricted
July 4th, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Tacoma: Banned

University Place: Restricted
July 4th, 9 a.m. to midnight

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is an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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