Editorial: Be cautious with July 4 fireworks

June 29, 2011

Vandalism by pyrotechnics.

That's what Friday's brush fire on Industrial Loop amounts to.

It's discouraging when something like this happens (article, page A1) after all the efforts made by fire officials to promote safe use of fireworks.

In Friday's incident, which fortunately did not result in significant damage, it is evident someone willfully tossed a lighted firework out the window of a moving car.

This is an irresponsible and criminal act. Further, it happened in a neighborhood that two years ago barely escaped grave fire damage, which was avoided thanks to the quick response of firefighters and the cooperation of neighbors.

And now the drive-by on Friday. Witnesses deserve credit for giving Fire Chief Devon Wells to-the-minute details on what happened, but unfortunately no vehicle description was available. Yet we hope for an arrest and prosecution in this matter, for this unthinking act could have caused a serious fire.

As a community, we are left with one more reason to be resolved and concerted in our own caution regarding the use of fireworks this July 4 season. "It's just another reminder to people that you need to be careful," Wells said. "A firework can start a fire very, very easily.

"You just have to hope to keep educating people," he said. "It is dry. The grass may look green but it's not."

As Wells notes, fireworks are not just toys, and throwing any burning material from the window, including cigarettes, is a crime.

"Emits showers and sparks," states the label on the "Ground Bloom With Bang" found on Industrial Loop.

Using legal, ignitable devices in an unsafe manner such as wrapping several together to make a bigger bang "is not just fire hazards but you can blow your hand off," Wells said.

Nationally, 80 percent of fireworks injuries each year are from people inappropriately using the devices - including attempting to relight a "dud" device.

They are called "duds" for a reason.

Few people would ever be so careless and thoughtless to knowingly toss a lighted object out a car window. But many of us will have fireworks in the coming week as we celebrate our independence with personal acts of noise-making and spark-raising. In these pages we have recently presented helpful tips for avoiding the spread of fire from use of fireworks. Here are a few critical precautions:

Keep it Legal - Legal fireworks may be purchased only from Oregon permitted fireworks retailers and stands.

Stay Grounded, Stay Put - Oregon law forbids possession, use or sale of fireworks that fly, explode or travel more than 6 feet on the ground or 12 inches in the air. Bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers are illegal in Oregon.

Liability Lessons - Any fireworks causing damage, or misuse of fireworks carries a liability for the offender, who may be required to pay for resulting fire or other damage.

Parents are liable for fireworks-caused damage by their children. Costs may include assessed fines as well as the cost of suppressing fireworks-caused fires.

Outdoors Doesn't Equal Okay - Be aware of flammable fuels around the planned fireworks area. If there are grasses, bushes or trees within spark range, this isn't the place to use your fireworks. Wood-shingle roofs, woodpiles and flammable liquid storage containers are also high danger zones.

Keep the Water On - Whether you stick to sparklers or go for the showy stuff, keep a hose of running water on near your display area and a few buckets of water, just in case. Better yet, keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

Public Spaces are Limited - All fireworks are prohibited on all Oregon beaches, in parks and campgrounds.

Families are Flammable Too - Children should be supervised at all times around any form of firework. Sparklers, which many see as inconsequential, pose a high risk for spot burns on hands, arms, legs and feet, or to set clothes on fire. Sparklers typically burn at 1,800-3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Three sparklers held together equal the heat of a blow torch.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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