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Disaster management officials pledge to monitor state's data on wildfire risks

Clackamas County commissioners on Tuesday, April 26, decided not to enact a temporary firework ban during high-heat periods in unincorporated zones for the time being.

"I'm going to recommend that we do not institute a ban at this time," said Chair Tootie Smith. "I recommend that we continue with an education effort, a safety effort."

Smith said that following recent meetings with county disaster management officials and firework wholesalers, banning fireworks in the county's entire unincorporated zone "really doesn't make sense" due to varying wildfire risk in different unincorporated area landscapes. She added that instituting a ban would be harmful to the business of firework wholesalers and retailers who she said are under strict regulations and can only sell fireworks from June 23 to July 6 under state law.

County officials will continue to monitor Oregon Department of Forestry data and may reconsider a ban.

As previously reported, Daniel Nibouar, deputy disaster manager for the county, said during an April 5 meeting that drought conditions are being detected earlier this year than last, with "large portions of the state as a whole in high-drought conditions," with low drought conditions seen in southernmost areas of the county.PMG FILE PHOTO - Several city councils have voted to ban shooting off fireworks and have increased fines to $1,000 for those shooting off fireworks that are illegal statewide, but Clackamas County has so far declined to take action this year.

"At this time last year, none of the county was in a drought condition," he continued, adding that the department is predicting April through June to favor "below-average precipitation and water supply for the county, and the summer outlook is looking to be above-average temperature-wise and below-average for precipitation. So unfortunately, we are looking at continuing trends to heading more into drought."

However, Smith said "... that applies to the southern portion of the county where there's timberland,' adding: "That is a special case. However, when you look into other unincorporated areas of Clackamas County around Canby, Molalla, Oak Grove, Damascus, those conditions would not be the same."

Commissioner Paul Savas said he would be inclined to "revisit" the decision in "about a month," adding that he is "concerned with the nature of the fires that are currently happening in the country."

He added that he noticed that the county's ban on fireworks in 2021 "significantly reduced" the number of people using fireworks before, on and immediately after July 4 last year.

Commissioner Martha Schrader said that firework retailers have requested to be included in county discussions and decisions on a potential ban going forward, with clear communication and safety more of a priority than taking a firework ban off of the table for good.

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