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Fireworks complaints drop compared to last year

Southern Oregon police agencies reported far fewer fireworks-related complaints over the Fourth of July weekend compared to last year.

Medford police reported 44 fireworks complaints from July 2-5, compared to 172 complaints reported during Fourth of July weekend in 2020, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.

In the first five days of July, Medford police made one fireworks-related arrest, issued two citations and seized fireworks in a fourth case.

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office charged Johnathon Cayetano Zavala, 33, with first-degree arson and misdemeanor charges of first-degree trespassing, reckless burning, recklessly endangering another person and interfering with police on accusations that Zavala threw fireworks into a “large fire in a transient camp on the railroad tracks” the afternoon of July 1 after police ordered him to stop, according to an affidavit filed by police in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Records show that Zavala was also arrested for violating his probation on a prior felony burglary conviction, and remained held Tuesday in the Jackson County Jail on $750,000 bail.

Budreau said that Medford officers issued citations in two other cases after one person was observed "with a Roman candle-style firework,“ and another was observed lighting mortar fireworks.

A Medford officer seized fireworks in a fourth case, but Budreau said the police report did not mention any further enforcement action.

Out of the 172 fireworks complaints in 2020, Medford police issued only one citation. According to Budreau, the citation was taken to trial in Medford Municipal Court and dismissed by Judge William Haberlach.

Budreau said that Medford police had the same number of personnel this year as last year, but the Medford officers on patrol needed to handle other emergencies, which included a July 4 Interstate 5 crash that injured first responders helping a motorist who’d rolled over near Exit 27, and a fatal crash July 5 near Bullock and Terminal Spur roads.

“This year was a very busy shift in general,” Budreau said.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office took 36 fireworks-related calls over the weekend — about a third off of last year’s 55 calls and 11 more than the 25 complaints reported in 2019, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Aaron Lewis. Twenty-three of the 36 weekend fireworks calls came July 4.

The fewest fireworks complaints came July 4, 2014, when three complaints were reported. There were seven JCSO calls for service in 2016, and the number jumped to 30 calls for service in 2017, and 36 in 2018, and dropped to 16 calls in 2019.

Ashland police logged one complaint about fireworks over the weekend, according to Chief Tighe O’Meara, who said in an email that the number “is probably lower than usual.” A second fireworks complaint was reported within Talent city limits.

Neither Lewis nor O’Meara reported any citations for fireworks-related infractions.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.