(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend Fire and Rescue, C.O. residents)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A classic Fourth of July tradition is set to return to Central Oregon this week. And while experts advise taking caution, others are excited.
"Well, you get the fireworks because it makes everybody happy,” Bend Resident Carina McCarthy said Monday. “I mean, I still get excited when I see fireworks, my kids get excited its an amazing experience to have with them."
Bend Fire and Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki said there are real dangers from fireworks use this summer.
"This summer has a potential for being catastrophic," Derlacki said.
He said the drought conditions, early fire season declaration and upcoming heat wave makes the threat even higher.
"As we've seen today it's super-dry, it's super-hot and it's super-windy,” Derlacki said. “We're extremely fearful of the potential for fire right now."
Derlacki, the City of Bend, and the Oregon State Fire Marshal emphasize the legal and safe use of fireworks.
The city is stepping up educational efforts, as well as enforcement, offering tips on how to be safe at: https://www.bendoregon.gov/government/departments/fire-rescue/safety-tips-emergency-preparedness/fireworks
The State of Oregon considers any fireworks that explode, eject fire, fly into the air, or travel more than six feet on the ground, illegal.
Some Central Oregon residents are concerned about the use of any fireworks.
"It sparks one little thing and then, a big fire explodes,” Prineville native Rickie Kester said.
"I don't think it's smart, but it's inevitable. It's the Fourth of July, and everyone wants to buy fireworks."
While others believe it's okay to use, it's on the individual to be responsible.
"I think people just need to be careful about it, have all the fun that you want to have,” former Sisters resident Kyle Wattenburg said. "I think if people are smart about it, there shouldn't be an issue, in my mind."
McCarthy emphasized safe and proper use as well.
"It's the people who use any fireworks, legal or otherwise, improperly,” McCarthy said. "There's just ways that you can mis-manage your usage of fireworks, and it's those people that create a negative impact."
Derlacki says if you can hold off on lighting your own fireworks, please do so.
However, if you do buy legal fireworks from a store in Central Oregon, he recommends you light them on a non-combustible surface like concrete, gravel or asphalt, clear the area of any brush, have an adult with young people, keep water nearby, and afterward soak the fireworks in a bucket overnight.
"Use them safely, dispose of them safely, we can eliminate a lot of those fires and have a great Fourth of July,” Derlacki said.
News release from the Oregon State Fire Marshal:
State Fire Marshal Asks Oregonians to Keep Fireworks Use Legal and Safe
SALEM, Ore. - The Office of State Fire Marshal, the Oregon Fire Service, natural resource agencies, and Oregon licensed fireworks wholesalers ask Oregonians to “keep it legal and keep it safe” when using all fireworks. The 2021 Oregon fireworks retail sales season opens June 23rd and runs through July 6th. The OSFM and its partners want everyone to know what fireworks are legal to use in Oregon without a permit, where residents can use them, and how to use fireworks safely.
In 2020, the U.S. saw a record-setting year when it comes to the consumption of fireworks. American’s consumed 385.8 million pounds of fireworks, a 55 percent increase from the previous year. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, nationwide, children 0 to 4 years old are injured by fireworks and treated at an emergency department more than any other age group. (5.3 injuries per 100,000 people). Older teens, 15 to 19 years old, have the second-highest injury rate (4.4 injuries per 100,000 people). Males represent 66 percent of all firework-related injuries.
In Oregon, between 2016 and 2020, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Lane Counties have had the highest rates of firework-related injuries.
With an arid spring, much of Oregon experiencing some form of drought, and concerns over an active wildfire season, the Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal is asking people to be aware of the dry conditions. Always have a bucket of water on hand to drown spent or used fireworks, have a charged hose nearby, and never light fireworks near dry grass or areas that could catch fire easily.
“We ask that those using fireworks be responsible when using them,” Assistant Chief Deputy with the Office of the Oregon State Marshal Mark Johnston said. “Every year across the state, we see fires sparked because of improper use or use of illegal fireworks. Our message is to keep it legal and keep it safe as people celebrate the holiday.”
In Oregon, residents and visitors can only purchase consumer legal fireworks from permitted fireworks retailers and stands. State regulations limit where those fireworks may be used. Fireworks can also start structural fires that threaten lives and property, as we have seen in past years. People who plan to visit public lands and parks for the July 4 holiday are asked to leave all fireworks at home. The use of fireworks is prohibited in national parks and forests, on Bureau of Land Management lands, on U.S. Fish and Wildlife properties, on state beaches, in state parks, and in state campgrounds.
For residents who purchase legal fireworks, the OSFM encourages everyone to practice the four Bs of safe fireworks use:
- Be prepared before lighting fireworks: keep water available by using a garden hose or bucket.
- Be safe when lighting fireworks: keep children and pets away from fireworks.
- Be responsible after lighting fireworks: never relight a dud. Please wait for 15 to 20 minutes, then soak it in a bucket of water before disposal.
- Be aware: use only legal fireworks and use them only in legal places.
Oregon law prohibits the possession, use, or sale of any firework that flies into the air, explodes, or travels more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground without a permit issued by the OSFM. Fireworks, commonly called bottle rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers, are illegal in Oregon without a permit. Officials may seize illegal fireworks and charge offenders with a class B misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $2,500 per. Those who misuse fireworks or allow fireworks to cause damage are liable and may be required to pay fire suppression costs or other damage. Parents are also liable for fireworks damage caused by their children.
The OSFM has published FAQs for commonly answered questions about the sale and legal use of consumer fireworks, permits for the retail sale of fireworks, and state rules for their use and enforcement activities. OSFM’s fireworks education materials for sharing on social media also can be found on its website.