by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: KEVIN HARDEN - Each year, thousands of illegal fireworks are seized by local law enforcement. Here, Portland Fire & Rescue Public Education Officer Michael Silva holds one of the 45,000 illegal fireworks that he collected last year. The fireworks were sent to an undisclosed location in November to be destroyed.With the Independence Day holiday fast approaching, fireworks stands are doing big business in and around the Portland area.

With that in mind, the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue is reminding the public to “Keep it Legal, Keep it Safe” this Fourth of July holiday.

“In the past five years, TVF&R has had 86 fireworks-related fires causing nearly $2 million dollars in damage,” says Fire Marshal Steve Forster. “This is significant when you realize that fireworks are only on sale for less than two weeks a year.”

According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal, there were 197 fireworks-caused fires, and 31 reported fireworks-caused injuries statewide last year. Most of the injuries were from using illegal mortars and legal sparklers. Fireworks can also be traumatic to veterans and pets.

Keep it legal

Oregon law bans fireworks that fly, explode, or move across the ground more than six feet or up in the air more than 12 inches. This includes popular items like bottle rockets, roman candles, firecrackers, and M80s.

Fireworks purchased by mail order, or in the state of Washington or on Native American reservations, may be illegal in Oregon. To keep it legal, purchase all fireworks at a licensed Oregon firework stand or retail outlet.

Under Oregon law, law enforcement officers can seize illegal fireworks and you can be fined up to $500 per violation. You can also be held civilly liable for damages resulting from improper use of any fireworks — legal or illegal.

In an effort to help curb illegal activity, TVF&R firefighters will conduct neighborhood drive-thrus on Friday, July 4 reminding individuals to use fireworks safely and convey the penalties associated with illegal fireworks.

In addition, TVF&R Deputy Fire Marshals will be present at public displays and will be riding with local law officers to assist with their enforcement efforts.

Individuals needing to report a fire or medical emergency should call 9-1-1; individuals wishing to report a nuisance or concern about illegal fireworks should do so via their non-emergency 9-1-1 number. These situations will be logged and passed on to local enforcement, and responded to as resources allow.

Keep it safe

Many of TVF&R’s firework-related fires are caused by careless use or improper disposal of legal fireworks. Chief Forster adds, “Our fires involve both illegal and legal fireworks. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe.” This includes sparklers. They can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees; wood burns at 575 degrees, while glass melts at 900 degrees (National Fire Protection Association).

Help ensure your safety this year with the following tips:

  • Only adults should light or handle fireworks. Supervise children at all times.
  • Store fireworks, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Use fireworks outdoors on a paved surface, away from buildings, vehicles, and vegetation.
  • Never pick up or try to re-light a “dud.”
  • Never alter fireworks or make your own.
  • Have a hose nearby in case of fire and place “spent” fireworks in a metal bucket with water.
  • One of the most common fires that TVF&R responds to involves “spent” fireworks placed in a bucket or grocery sack that rekindle and spread to fences, decks, and even homes.

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