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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