The start of summer is met with the dry, hot conditions that mark the beginning of fire season in the northwest. And with the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, state fire agencies are asking Oregonians to keep safety in mind when putting sparks on display.
The Oregon Department of Forestry set the official start to fire season on July 2 for the western part of the state.
While that imposes extra regulations for industrial operations working on forest lands, it also means safety should be at the forefront of any outdoor adventure.
"With the current and predicted weather, summer is finally here," said Ted Erdmann with the West Oregon District. "We want to get out in front of the situation, since fire danger is increasing."
The rain that followed Summer's official start might have delayed the dry conditions, but forestry officials say fire danger will rise with the temperatures as the Fourth of July approaches.
Officials from Douglas County FD remind people that keeping fireworks legal and safe are the keys to prevent injuries and sparking a fire.
Fireworks pose a huge threat to starting wildfires, and for that reason possessing fireworks on national forest lands is illegal. The punishment for having fireworks in the national forests of Oregon and Washington can be as high as a $5,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail.
Fire danger isn't just reserved for the fireworks over the Independence Day holiday weekend. As temperatures remain in the mid-to-low 90's through the Fourth of July week people out enjoying the sunshine should mindful of other common causes of fires such as having barbecues or campfires, driving off-road vehicles, using gas-powered lawn equipment and discarding lit cigarettes.
Fire prevention tips
- Dispose of cigarettes properly in non-combustible ashtrays or extinguish them in water or sand. In Oregon, cigarettes start one in ten fires statewide.
- When using barbecue grills, maintain clearance from combustible decks, fences, and vegetation. Allow ashes to completely cool and then dispose of them in metal containers. Barbecue ashes can maintain ignition temperatures for many hours, even if the surface is cool to touch.
- Avoid using welding, grinding, or mowing equipment near dry weeds and grass.
- Avoid parking vehicles in dry, weedy areas. The temperature of vehicle exhaust components can easily ignite dry grass and weeds.
- Don't overload electrical outlets with portable fans, air conditioners, or extension cords.
- Keep a fire extinguisher, water hose, or bucket handy in the event a fire occurs.
- Observe no-burn regulations.
- Use only legal fireworks and maintain safe distances from combustibles. Follow the "4-B's" of fireworks safety (Be Prepared, Be Responsible, Be Safe, Be Aware).
Oregon law prohibits fireworks that fly, explode, or move across the ground more than 6 feet. Fireworks purchased by mail order, in other states or on Native American reservations may be illegal in Oregon. This includes popular items such as bottle rockets, roman candles, firecrackers, and M-80s. To keep it legal, purchase all fireworks at a licensed Oregon fireworks stand.
Under Oregon law, law enforcement and fire officials can seize illegal fireworks and you can be fined up to $500 per violation and/or arrested. It is also important to remember that you can be held liable for damages resulting from improper use of any fireworks – legal or illegal. Oregon law also holds parents liable for damage caused by their children and allows fire agencies to charge for the cost of suppressing fires caused by fireworks. It is also illegal to use or even possess any fireworks on state and federal land. Those caught with fireworks on federal land could face up to six months in prison, a $500 fine, or both.
Keep It Safe
Mishandling fireworks ultimately leads to burn injuries. Treat all fireworks with care. Even items considered safe pose safety risks. Sparklers, for example, can reach temperatures up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause serious burns if not handled properly. Please follow these simple steps when using fireworks.
· Only adults should light or handle fireworks.
· Never give fireworks to children.
· Store fireworks, matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
· Supervise children at all times when fireworks are being used.
· Use fireworks outdoors on a paved surface, away from buildings, vehicles and vegetation.
· Never point or throw fireworks at people, pets, or buildings.
· Never pick up or try to re-light a “dud”.
· Never alter fireworks or make your own. Homemade explosives can be deadly.
· Have a hose or bucket with water readily available to douse misfired and spent fireworks, and to extinguish potential fires.
· Allow spent fireworks to cool by letting them soak inside a bucket with water before disposing of them.
Leave Fireworks to the Professionals
Restrictions of fireworks are for a good cause. No matter how small or large fireworks may be, they are a potential fire starter. But it is still possible to celebrate and enjoy the holiday. Families can consult the newspaper or local activity calendar and attend one of several approved, licensed fireworks displays around Douglas County.
Individuals concerned about neighbors using fireworks are reminded that Fourth of July festivities result in an increase in activity for all public safety agencies. Because resources are limited, priority must be given to truly hazardous situations. Individuals with a fire or medical emergency should call 9-1-1; other situations should be reported via the non-emergency number.