Manslaughter by Fireworks

Two fires in unincorporated King County that killed or critically wounded residents following Fourth of July celebrations have been linked to fireworks, according to fire officials.

A fire near Seattle’s Highline neighborhood left one man dead the night of the Fourth and two homes engulfed in flames, according to a tweet from King County Fire District 20.

Roland Kennedy, 70, died from smoke inhalation, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. His death was ruled an accident.

Fireworks to blame for deadly Highline house fire …, Seattle Times

On July 4th, 2018, I witnessed a neighbor shooting off powerful fireworks equal in concussion producing noise of modern battlefield artilleryrattling windows for a blockphysically threaten another homeowner pleading with him to cease and desist because his home had just caught fire due to fireworks landing on his roof. And if that was not enough, the neighbor who made the threat went over to the victim of fireworks house the next day and threatened him again for good measure. I think the words and deeds of those who cackle, laugh and ridicule even threaten reveals exactly who and what their motives really are all about.

True satire requires both wit and moral purpose. Without the first, it is mere condemnation; without the second, it is mere venting of the spleen. The employers of the former are the carpers and faultfinders who inhabit any university faculty, sucking laughter out of any fruit. They do not realize that taking something seriously does not mean taking it solemnly. The latter are the sophomores, those who take it all flippantly. They joke but have no purpose beyond cackling laughter.

Terry Lindvall, God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert
@Nextdoor Post sarcastically calling for ol’ fashioned 1950’s brawl in our neighborhood streets . . . threats meant to intimidate are already a reality.

Dave Baun’s caustic and belligerent fantasy is closer to reality than many realize. It is only a matter of time before neighbors start shooting neighbors as the incivility and abusive rhetoric displayed on Nextdoor continues to be tolerated and escalates. It is said that satire to be effective must have both wit and a moral purpose; Dave Baun’s malicious sarcasm has neither wit nor a moral purpose, but is merely an example the kind of flippant sophomoric cackling laughter that passes as civil discourse on Nextdoor.

Frank Iacolucci bullying on Nextdoor

Some Nextdoor bullies tell other homeowners who live in completely different HOAs that have passed rules to completely ban all fireworks to “move somewhere” else when illegal fireworks are shot off at all hours day and night outside the their homes. Frank is regular annual abuser and bully on Nextdoor around the issue of firing off illegal fireworks after Seattle Seahawks games. He likes to brag about shooting them off after Seahawks games mockingly posting after bragging, “kidding” when we know well he is not. And yet Nextdoor pretends this is somehow being “helpful” and civil to taunt, ridicule, and tell his neighbors to leave if they don’t like it. Frank even advocates for others (to join him one can assume) in firing off illegal fireworks after Seahawks games, thereby using Nextdoor as a platform to agitate for neighbors breaking the law and directly or indirectly harming their neighbors. Frank Iacolucci likes to bully his neighbors sitting behind his computer screen and Nextdoor enables his bullying:

Sorry I was cleaning up my firework mess! [illegally shot off after Seahawks game] I kid! I kid! [no Frank is not joking, only bullying and mocking and ridiculing] Have a wonderful night everyone! This thread was almost as entertaining as the Seahawks win. I guess you do know they won Shawna since the fireworks went off! Night. Hahahaha!!! My wife said someone would complain [about illegal fireworks shot off after Seahawks game] and I thought she was joking! Man I’m glad I’m not your neighbor! Go to bed! I can give Officer Shirley contact info. He’s the sheriff up here and I’ve know him for 20+ years. [information passed on to King County Sheriff’s department] He lives up here. Actually … maybe he was the one who lit the fireworks off! He is a huge Hawks fan…. [libeling an officer of the law?] Cops have more important things to worry about than people complaining in “unincorporated” king county [they are illegal there too but Frank doesn’t care] about fireworks going off after a Seahawks win! Do us all a favor and deal with it. (Nextdoor, November 2018)

I’ve been lighting fireworks in this neighborhood for 40 years so stop complaining [they have been illegal except for designated times for decades]. This is my neighborhood and people like you have made it comical! So move somewhere they are illegal [they are were she lives already and have been illegal for decades outside of very limited times, like around the Fourth of July, but this bullying belligerent doesn’t care] and stop complaining [making legitimate statements about illegal fireworks]. (Nextdoor, June 2020)

Sample of Frank Iacolucci’s hateful posting towards his neighbors on Nextdoor

It is not enough that each year several homes burn down, but for some on Nextdoor apparently it’s all just giggles and laughs even when our elderly neighbors, unable to escape, burn to death in house fires set by Fourth of July fireworks. They mock, ridicule, and laugh while their neighbors homes burn and some burn to death in Fourth of July fires. So much for Nextdoor’s Be Helpful, Not Hurtful policies. And we wonder where on earth our children learn to be bullies?

The cast of characters mocking like sophomores, those who take it all flippantly, who joke but have no purpose beyond cackling laughter parade a number of fallacious arguments — license masquerading as patriotism — insisting their fetish for fireworks is their Constitutional right in honor of our nations patriots. No such constitutional right exists and fireworks were historically regulated even in early America for public safety reasons. The fact that many cities have outlawed fireworks proves their is no Constitutional right to fireworks that override their neighbor’s right to public safety and to not have their homes burnt down or lives threatened by belligerents who insist they have a right to blow things up over and into their neighbors property. This vacuous and transparently self-serving pseudo-patriotism that is nonsense on stilts is typical of the rhetoric posted on Nextdoor.

Their claim that firing off dangerous fireworks is a “right” guaranteed by the Constitution is factually false (here). Neither does the Second Amendment guarantee the right to fire dangerous fireworks that threaten the lives and property of one’s neighbors. Repeatedly such self-serving narcissistic fallacious appeals to patriotism are used by such selfish individuals. Some even make the ludicrous claim that being a veteran entitles them to the right to blow up fireworks and potentially burn down their neighbors homes, or worse, kill them in a house fire. Enough is enough; it is time to call these people what they really are and expose the phony patriotism they use to hide their selfish narcissism and license masquerading as liberty and patriotism.

When the bullshit armchair-warrior blood and guts argument fails the Constitutional test there is always just plain old nativist ad hominem nonsense like blaming the ban on outsiders coming from sunny California or Seattle no less (here). Of course, many residents have lived in their homes for decades and how long someone has lived in unincorporated King County is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Another absurd excuse is the whataboutism (here). They feign being victims of those “others” who don’t abide by the rules, yet make no effort to hold those who don’t abide by the rules accountable, mocking and ridiculing the idea that offenders should even held accountable (here). Some openly accuse law enforcement of turning a blind eye or worse, actually participating in the illegal use of fireworks (here). What such sophistry is really aimed at is the other mockers to invite them to pile on and join in bullying meant to silence legitimate concerns about the safety of our neighborhoods, homes, and very lives being put at risk by the few who conflate license with liberty.

A few years back for a reason unrelated to July 4th fireworks I knocked on hundreds of doors on our HAO which has almost 1000 densely packed fir tree ringed homes. In the process I met many homeowners and among those many homeowners were more than a few who were elderly couples or singles who would find it very difficult to evacuate quickly should their house catch on fire. In more than one case I met elderly couples where one was caring for a spouse who having suffered a stroke or other debilitating illness would never be able to evacuate them in an emergency. And I was told by the firemen who came to house near our home to put out a fire caused by Fourth of July fireworks that they cannot respond to them all any longer, and that eventually one will cause multiple houses to go up in flames as nearby trees spread the conflagration faster than their resources can respond. We are known as the neighborhoods that burn. I wonder if those who minimize, excuse, ignore, and engage in mocking giggles and laughs and bullying on Nextdoor knock on their neighbors doors to find out if they have any elderly couples living nearby who might not be able to evacuate in a fire emergency? Or they just assume it never happens; out of sight out of mind and all giggles and laughs?

Our family has owned a home and lived in the Renton Fairwood area for over twenty years now. Over those twenty plus years we have observed the study increase in the volume and lethal power of dangerous fireworks[1] being shot off in our closely packed neighborhood. As the volume of fireworks being shot off in our neighborhood continued to substantially increased so too did the danger of deadly house fires increase over time, until on the Fourth of July 2018, while our daughter and future son-in-law were practicing their wedding dance in our backyard as we all enjoyed the evening dinner amidst a increasing volume of explosions we heard firetruck sirens come roaring into our block in response to a neighbor’s home set on fire by a firework that landed on his roof and set it ablaze. Luckily, it was caught in time and fire fighters were able to get there soon enough to put it out. But not everyone, as we see in the opening Seattle Times quote above, were so lucky.

Our Neighbor’s Home with shake roof set on fire on Fourth of July 2018
Nextdoor.com: Loss of property & life foreseen …

Later that same Fourth of July evening I observed a neighbor on my block putting on a rather big firework show of clearly illegal fireworks purchased from the tribal lands. When I directly asked him if these were legal fireworks or the illegal ones purchased from the tribal lands he rather coyly avoided the question. They were clearly not purchased from the local fireworks stand. Among this large display was a plate of mortars that shot into the air and rattled windows with huge explosions. I note that early that evening while speaking with one of the fireman who responded to our neighbors fire (above), remarked as the explosions were going off around us, “[boom!] That’s a felony, [boom!] that’s a felony!” and told me to contact Governor Jay Inslee and ask him why the ban on illegal fireworks is not being enforced?

Nextdoor.com: Illegal fireworks

I note that earlier I had attempted to get some clarification on which fireworks were legal and which were illegal, but found the existing laws vague despite the clear prohibition of fireworks purchased on the tribal lands. The problem is that some fireworks (the so-called legal ones) are being sold in local firework stands that rent space in our local Safeway parking lots. And indeed, these stands sold mortars which are difficult to differentiate from the ones purchased on the tribal land vs. local fireworks stands. Even though there are statements from the various King County sites claiming that “If it has a stick or fins and goes up, or if it blows up, it is illegal in Washington State,” the laws as currently written make it virtually impossible for King County Sheriffs to effectively enforce the law. It is simply asking to much of our Sheriffs to turn them into explosive forensic investigators when firemen, trained as they are, have already noted in many cases the firework that caused the fire or damage or injury is never recovered having been destroyed in the explosion/fire.

To make matters worse, that same evening I witnessed the distraught homeowner whose home had been set on fire by fireworks drive by the neighbor’s illegal firework show and ask him to stop. This neighbor, rather than seeing the gravity of the situation and having any empathy, chose instead to attempt to minimize and intimidate the distraught homeowner telling him to “Move on, mind his own business” etc., finally threatening him saying, “I can find out where you live.” As I stood there and watched this, the demeanor and manner in which this statement was delivered, it was obviously delivered as a threat. I was told by the homeowner whose house caught fire that the next day this belligerent individual walked over to his block and told him, “You just made an enemy.” This kind of attitude raises serious concerns about the safety of our neighborhood when some are willing to ignore the existing laws and then resort to threats and intimidation when confronted with the consequences of illegal fireworks being shot off in our neighborhoods.[2]

That same Fourth of July evening as I walked throughout our neighborhood to observe the celebrations and what kind of fireworks were being shot off. I observed just a few houses away in a rental home the renters shooting off mortars and bottle rockets into the air amidst homes right across the street with shake roofs (know to be highly flammable). I was told by one fireman that bottle rockets are notorious for causing house fires as they often land on roofs still burning and ignite leaves and other debris. Spent mortar tubs and bottle rockets were clearly visible all throughout the neighborhood.

In one case I observed what appeared to be an adult and their children holding Roman Candle fireworks in their hands shooting them up into the air aiming down the street. It does not take much of an imagination to foresee the danger in such irresponsible behavior. Roman candles caused roughly 400 injuries in 2018. Just around the corner from where I observed this lives a family of five with three small children and a house with a shake roof. I dread thinking what might happen to them in terms of loss of property and potentially even life if some stray Roman candle flame should land on their roof and set their home ablaze.

As I continued to walk through the neighborhood I came across a home with a number of children shooting off bottle rockets with absolutely no adult supervision not a single adult in sight and right across the street were several homes with highly flammable shake roofs over the top of which they were shooting these flaming bottle rockets. The day after the Fourth of July I walked over and filmed the remains of the fireworks these kids and been shooting off:

The death of Roland Kennedy due to the use of Fourth of July fireworks being shot off in our closely packed neighborhoods that have many older homes with shake roofs was not unforeseeable. Over the previous years many discussion threads have arisen on social media site Nextdoor regarding the danger of the use of fireworks in our neighborhoods. I searched the Nextdoor going back several years and observed a pattern of communication taking place. Whenever a poster would raise a legitimate concern regarding the firing of fireworks which happens not just on the Fourth of July but frequently in association with Seahawks’ football games a predictable cast of characters would post condescending and/or ridiculing responses arguing they have every right to shoot off any kind of fireworks they like while ignoring the fact that not all fireworks were legal, often telling concerned homeowners to just drug their pets, ignore the fireworks, hose down your roof, etc.[3]

Some would even boast that they would be putting on “big” firework shows, always excusing their behavior and shifting blame onto the anonymous “other” guy who wasn’t practicing safe fireworks protocol or using “legal” fireworks for the increasing house fires occurring on the Fourth of July. They may well be taking all the recommended precautions and only using legal fireworks (i.e., no bottle rockets, etc.) but this ignores the reality that people’s homes are burning down and lives have been and will continue to be lost because of many who don’t abide by safe practices. The simple fact as told me by numerous firemen is that even legal fireworks cause house fires and our own experience in our densely packed neighborhoods tell us the many are not the few. Some even went so far as to film the fireworks being shot off in our neighborhoods and then congratulating themselves about another great year of neighborhood firework shows:

The interesting thing about the video above is that I was able to use public King County Parcel data and geographic information systems mapping (GIS) and google maps to overlay King County Parcel Maps onto the video and identify the actual parcel data of the homeowner firing off the fireworks.

Click to enlarge image

The video was clear enough to trace the firework tracer right back to the ground and observe the homeowner get off his/her porch, walk out into the cul-de-sac and setup the next mortar and fire it off. For example, at 0:18 you can trace the location of a firework being fired from the ground up into the air-burst that follows. At 1:21 and 2:24 you are looking at the following Woodside HOA area (image right). If one observes the video carefully it is not difficult to see where fireworks are being fired from. I note that Woodside’s HOA has already banned fireworks in its neighborhoods.

If one looks carefully at the King County Parcel maps below the image of Woodside, which matches the video one can identify the exact parcel in front of which fireworks are being fired. If one combines the fact that a simple inexpensive drone can capture the digital forensics evidence good enough to watch an individual leave their front yard and setup and fire a firework and follow each shot firework’s tracer back to the location from where it was fired it becomes quickly clear that there already exists technologies that would allow law enforcement a cost-effective way to identify offenders and deal with them appropriately in real-time.

King County Parcel Map of Woodside Neighborhood

It is time those who want to see this abuse of illegal fireworks reigned in and stopped to do something about it by organizing a letter/email campaign in support of Jim McDermott’s proposed legislation to ban all fireworks in Unincorporated King County.

Dear Friend,

You are receiving this message because you have previously contacted my office regarding the dangers of fireworks.

Today at the Council, I introduced legislation that would ban the sale and discharge of consumer fireworks in unincorporated King County. The tragic death of an elderly man in White Center in house fire caused by fireworks, as well as the increasing risk of wildfire due to climate change, demonstrates the danger posed by fireworks, and the need to act.

As the proposal moves through the legislative process, I would encourage to you share your thoughts with my Council colleagues in support of the proposal. This can be done via email or in-person at a public hearing, once the ordinance is scheduled to be heard in the Council’s Local Services committee.

Please see the press release below for more details or click here.

Thank you for your support.

Joe McDermott, King County Concilmember, District 8 (Joe.McDermott at kingcounty.gov)

Take action now. Find out who your King County Executive is and email them and tell them you support the proposed firework ban in unincorporated King County.[4]

~ ~ ~

[1] The majority of the most dangerous fireworks are already illegal. They are purchased on the surrounding tribal lands by our neighbors and then brought into our neighborhood and and fired off as part of their Fourth of July celebrations. But the existing laws are difficult to enforce due to vague definitions of what is legal and illegal and inability of law enforcement to determine the difference between legal and illegal fireworks with the degree of evidence required to make the law enforceable. By banning and making ALL fireworks illegal there will no longer be an difficulty in determining who in our neighborhood is firing off illegal fireworks. Such a total ban on all fireworks is the only way to make our neighborhoods safer for ourselves and our pets.

Like clockwork every Fourth of July the same actors mock and ridicule anyone who raises concerns on Nextdoor about fireworks terrorizing themselves or their animals or posing a risk to their lives, property, and peace of mind. They write the names of those who raise concerns on the mortar boxes and then post them on Nextdoor mocking legitimate concerns. Instead a belligerent attitude is exhibited that refuses to consider that there are legitimate concerns, such as the fact people have died in fires cause by fireworks, houses have burned down our caught fire, firework abusers have threatened their neighbors and brag about shooting them off even at times when it is clearly illegal as the comments of Frank Iacolucci and Alicia Thorsteinson evidence below.

Regular Belligerents on Nextdoor

The only way is to make ALL fireworks illegal thereby creating a clear line so those who abuse this confusion over what is legal and illegal are no longer able to do so thereby threatening the lives, property, and right to live peacefully without being terrified by being subjected to noise levels equal to being on a battled field under mortar fire. People die, houses catch fire and even burn down. There is no way to stop this except by making all fireworks illegal and only allowing properly permitted public displays. Otherwise our neighborhoods are increasingly going to be subjected to this threat from the few who abuse fireworks because of the confusion between what is legal and illegal.

[2] I shared what I witnessed (the statement I interpreted as a threat) with two police officers that are neighbors and both characterized the statements as threats and suggested a report to log the incident be made.

[3] This kind of bullying, intimidating, ridiculing, or even threatening behavior indicates a certain attitude that I observed repeatedly on the social media site Nextdoor whenever anyone would raise legitimate concerns about the danger of shooting off fireworks (legal and illegal) in our neighborhoods.

[4] Determine which district you are in here and who your representative is and join in supporting the proposed firework ban in unincorporated King County by communicating your support that the proposed ban of fireworks above be passed.

[5] On April 27th 2021 King County Council passed a resolution banning all fireworks in unincorporated King County (See packet).

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