Planning on lighting fireworks this Independence Day? You may want to reconsider.
Fire departments and elected officials are begging, pleading and urging residents to not light fireworks this Fourth of July, citing the danger given recent extreme weather.
Triple-digital temperatures in the Pacific Northwest this week, along with a statewide drought, have made the likelihood of fireworks related fires rise dramatically. Fireworks on the Fourth of July are a time-honored tradition for thousands of Oregonians, but some local cities are banning the practice, out of an abundance of caution.
In Washington County, Tualatin and Forest Grove have both banned the use of fireworks in their cities, as has Portland, Wilsonville, Gresham, Milwaukie, Bend and parts of Southwest Washington.
Firefighters are stressing that even if fireworks aren't banned in your area, the threat of danger remains.
"Please keep in mind that although you may not be in a restricted area, it does not mean that the danger of using fireworks or having open flames does not exist," Columbia River Fire & Rescue said in a statement.
The threat of fires, alongside complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, have led many large fireworks shows across the region to canceled performances this year, including Tigard's annual show at Tigard High School, as well as shows at Fort Vancouver and the Waterfront Blues Festival.
The St. Helens "Let Freedom Ring" firework show at Columbia County Courthouse Plaza will go on as planned, as will a fireworks show at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro following the Hillsboro Hops baseball game and the fireworks show at Banks Sunset Speedway. A fireworks show at the Woodburn Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm is already sold out.
On Thursday, Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty and Tigard state rep. Dacia Grayber said fireworks this weekend could spark another round of wildfires, similar to the major disasters seen across Oregon last fall.
"Even though (last year's wildfires) were not caused by fireworks, the risk of repeating such an experience is just too great," the pair wrote in a letter to Pamplin Media Group. "Many residents will also remember the Eagle Creek Fire of 2017 that burned 50,000 acres over three months and was started accidentally by a 15-year-old boy using fireworks."
Washington County's board of commissioners is also urging residents to change tactics this year.
"We understand that Independence Day has special meaning to many people this year as we finally emerge from statewide COVID restriction," sad Board Chair Kathryn Harrington. "What we're asking is that everyone consider the great harm and suffering that could occur with even one unintentional fire caused by fireworks during this holiday season. The risk is just too great and we're pleading with people to consider other ways of celebrating like a backyard gathering, trip to Hagg Lake or even attending a professional fireworks display that has been permitted for safety."
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, which operates fires stations across much of Washington County, echoed those statements this week and said residents should refrain from calling 9-1-1 except in emergencies to keep dispatchers from being overwhelmed.
"This is normally the busiest time of year for emergency responders and dispatchers without record temperatures, and the heat has proven difficult for the most vulnerable in our communities," the agency said in a statement.
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