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MailTribune.com
  • Cops to crack down on illegal fireworks

  • With fireworks season only weeks away, the Medford Police Department is gearing up to enforce fireworks laws. "We're going to be increasing enforcement over years past," said Medford police Lt. Curtis Whipple.
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  • With fireworks season only weeks away, the Medford Police Department is gearing up to enforce fireworks laws. "We're going to be increasing enforcement over years past," said Medford police Lt. Curtis Whipple.
    The department will partner with Medford Fire-Rescue to step up awareness and enforcement, and people who ignite illegal fireworks will face steep penalties and a greater risk of getting caught this year, he said.
    "We're actually going to have patrols out looking for violations of fireworks law," Whipple said.
    In addition to teaming up for enforcement, the two agencies intend to spread the word about the legal and safety ramifications of illegal fireworks.
    "We've actually been working on this since last year," he said. "We're going to do some additional campaigning as we get closer to fireworks season."
    Whipple explained that the state of Oregon bans fireworks that explode, fly into the air or move in an erratic manner. "A lot of fireworks sold in other states are not legal in Oregon," Whipple said.
    In addition, local ordinances ban all fireworks on the Bear Creek Greenway, in city parks, public schools and natural areas with hazardous conditions — particularly north of Cherry Lane and east of North Foothill Road.
    "Those are the areas where you can't use any fireworks at all," said Whipple, who pointed to a recent wildfire near Grants Pass as an example of the danger posed by hot and dry conditions.
    "I don't want to predict it's going to be a dry year, but it's looking like it right now," he said. "Fire is probably the biggest risk we have in that wildland interface area."
    Violating the local ordinance carries a maximum $250 fine. Using banned fireworks is a violation of state law, and penalties can be much steeper.
    "Illegal fireworks is a Class B misdemeanor," Whipple said. "You can actually be arrested for illegal fireworks."
    Whipple said illegal-fireworks users can be charged with other crimes, as well, including criminal mischief and reckless burning.
    "It's much bigger than the fireworks use," he said.
    Whipple said violators could also be on the hook for the costs to put out fires caused by illegal fireworks.
    "You may be charged with the suppressing of that fire," he said. "It could run in the tens of thousands of dollars, easy."
    Fireworks season runs June 26 through July 6. Legal fireworks can be set off during that time in authorized locations.
    "That's when the sale of fireworks is permitted," he said.
    Although patrols will be watching for fireworks violations, Whipple encourages people to report violations by calling 541-770-4784.
    Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.
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