The hotter, drier weather predicted for the Fourth of July weekend will make forest fuels even more susceptible to wildfire ignitions. Last year, on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, 24 wildfires were caused by careless use of fireworks, burned 44 acres, and cost $41,378 to suppress.
The Keep Oregon Green Association, a non-profit association that for over 69 years has promoted awareness and education of wildfire prevention, is especially concerned about wildland/urban interface areas where houses are intermixed with the forests.
On nearly all forested lands in Oregon, private, industrial, federal, or state (including Oregon’s beaches), it is not legal to discharge any firecrackers, explosives, torpedoes, rockets, fireworks, or other substances that could be harmful to visitors or properties, or resources.
The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Attend public fireworks displays, and leave the lighting to the professionals.
Lighting fireworks at home isn't even legal in many areas, so if you still want to use them, be sure to check with your local police department first. If they're legal where you live, keep these safety tips in mind.
Kids should never play with fireworks. Things like firecrackers and sparklers are just too dangerous. If you give kids sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from the face, clothing, and hair. Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to melt gold.
Buy only legal fireworks – those approved by the Oregon State Fire Marshal - and store them in a cool, dry place
Never try to make your own fireworks.
Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents.
Steer clear of others — fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.
Don't hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting. Wear some sort of eye protection, and avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from forest debris, trees, and other flammable substances.
Light one firework at a time (not in glass or metal containers), and never relight a dud.
Don't allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run loose or get injured.
The Fourth of July is a time for celebrating. It is also a time when many of us enjoy going into forested areas to enjoy the grandeur of the trees, the beauty of lakes or streams, and the sparkling stars in the nighttime skies. But careless behaviors, including the use of fireworks, can change everything. One spark from a fire cracker or sparkler can convert all this beauty into a blackened, murky, smokey emptiness. Just one spark - and there went your celebration and enjoyment. Gone – all of it.
For further information, contact the Keep Oregon Green Association at 503-559-7011 or your nearest Oregon Department of Forestry office.