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Medford residents pass fireworks test

MEDFORD — The first Fourth of July holiday period in which fireworks were allowed in Medford had fewer fireworks-sparked fires than any year since 2000, fire officials report.

Medford Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg credited the Fire Department's aggressive campaign to educate people about fireworks safety.

"This year was the first year that we could educate the public on both fireworks laws and fireworks safety," he said in a report on the effects of the new ordinance.

The ordinance permits the sale and use of fireworks allowed under Oregon law in city limits between June 23 and July 6. Fireworks are still prohibited on hillsides most prone to wildfires, on the Bear Creek Greenway, in city parks and at public schools.

During the roughly two-week period this year, fireworks caused five small grass fires that resulted in no monetary losses for property owners, he said. Last year, the same period saw nine fires.

The highest number of fires — 14 — was reported in 2004, while the most expensive losses — $64,500 — were seen in 2001, Medford fire department statistics show.

The largest fire caused by fireworks burned several acres near Crater Lake and Ford avenues July 5, Kleinberg said, noting that most fires involve illegal fireworks or misuse of the devices.

He also said that the large fire along Interstate 5 and the Bear Creek Greenway July 5 was caused by an incendiary device and is being investigated as arson, so it wasn't included in the fireworks statistics.

Kleinberg's report concluded that the department's media blitz of television, radio and newspaper stories about the ordinance change and fireworks safety helped prevent fires. Educational brochures and signs at parks and hillside access points also helped, he said.