'We haven't even paid expenses'
(Update: Adding video, more of Bend fireworks stand operators' reaction, comments from Pastor Dennis)
Even legal fireworks use can bring $750 fines; Vince Genna Stadium, Pilot Butte displays only exceptions; way paved for more cooling centers
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The City of Bend on Monday declared a local state of emergency in response to the ongoing extremely high temperatures forecast by the National Weather Service Excessive Heat Warning and the high risk for fire during this summer’s drought conditions -- including efforts to add cooling centers and a ban on all public fireworks use through July 9.
But the move could be putting local firework stands like Discount Fireworks Superstore in north Bend in a tough spot as we approach the Fourth of July.
Pastor Jack Dennis of Believers Cornerstone Fellowship Church has been operating the nonprofit fireworks stand for 15 years, to benefit local charities. He said the city's decision could be "very devastating."
Dennis says they do the majority of their sales in the four days leading up to July 4th, but the ban could keep potential customers from making purchases.
"We haven't even paid expenses," Dennis said.
Throughout their 15 years of business, Dennis says they've always stressed the importance of safety and have maintained a strong relationship with the city and community members.
"Practice safety. We push that," Dennis said. "Read the label on the firework, they're very distinct and we're thankful we haven't had any problems."
And although he says he is frustrated by the ban, he understands city officials have to do what's best for everyone.
"I understand," Dennis said. "They're trying to do what's right for this city. I'm sympathetic to that."
But he says he ultimately wishes their stand had more of a heads up in order to ensure their charity work proceeds as planned.
"Give us a chance to speak our heart," Dennis said. "I'm going to speak up and say there's a better way."
His son, Jake Dennis, who works alongside him at the stand, says the city has taken things too far and the ban is "anti-American."
"Directly telling us what we can and cannot do on our driveway to celebrate our freedom, our liberty -- and then to threaten us with a $750 ticket," Dennis said.
But the city says it's a needed step, due to the high fire danger.
"We know it's been a long year-plus, and that you're ready to celebrate," said City Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Gena Goodman-Campbell. "And we would just ask you to find safe ways to do that without, lighting fireworks."
But Jake Dennis said the small step leaves him wondering, what's next?
"I feel strongly about this," he said. "And maybe some other people don't agree with how I feel about fireworks -- it's such a small thing. But what happens when they come for something you believe, something that you stand up for?"
Here's the rest of the city's announcement:
The emergency order includes mobilizing city resources to provide support services to unhoused community members and the immediate ban on the use of all fireworks – legal or illegal – within the city of Bend.
“This heat is taking its toll on our community, especially those who are unhoused,” said City of Bend Chief Operating Officer and Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore. “We need our public resources focused on supporting our community and saving lives right now. Allowing fireworks during this drought would create unnecessary fire risk and stress our limited public safety and water resources even more.”
The declaration of a local state of emergency is effective immediately and remains in effect through July 9. It allows for temporary emergency policies to respond to the crisis and preserve limited public safety and water resources.
Responding to Public Health Emergency
The city has been in contact with other local public entities, as well as service providers who serve the unhoused members of the Bend community. That coordination has resulted in opening cooling shelters, but the City may require more flexibility to assist with meeting the immediate needs of the community during this emergency.
Under the emergency order, the city may relax, adjust, or waive any requirements, standards, criteria, or application of the Bend Municipal Code, Bend Development Code, or other regulations for the purpose of addressing the public health emergency caused by this extreme heat.
Professional fireworks displays at Vince Genna Stadium (July 3) and Pilot Butte State Park (July 4) will continue as scheduled. These professional fireworks displays have been approved by the State Fire Marshal and Bend Fire & Rescue. They include plans to reduce the risk for fire and quickly respond to any fire incidents related to the events. The use of all other fireworks in Bend is banned through July 9.
Under the emergency order, use of any fireworks is a Class A civil infraction and carries a penalty of a fine up to $750. The city is asking for the community’s support in keeping Bend safe by complying with the ban on fireworks.
Community members are encouraged to report the use of fireworks via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use of fireworks posing an immediate risk to persons or property are emergencies and should be reported by calling 911. Response to all 911 calls for service are based on priority.
City spokesman Joshua Romero told NewsChannel 21 the ban on fireworks use apparently is a first for the city of Bend.
Romero also noted that the state of emergency order does not include a ban on the sale or purchase of fireworks that are legal in Oregon, which means "the city is not shutting down fireworks stands."