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Let’s enjoy professional fireworks this year

As you marvel at the triple-digit temperature today, which might just break the all-time record of 115 degrees for Medford, realize that record was set on July 20, 1946. It’s only June. And fast approaching is July Fourth — which tradition says we should celebrate with fireworks.

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Do us all a favor. Rethink that tradition, at least for this year.

Calls to ban fireworks entirely crop up every year at this time. And every year, they fall on deaf ears.

But this year is not like any other. It has been just under 10 months since the devastating Almeda and Obenchain fires destroyed thousands of structures and left even more people homeless last September. The memory, especially for those people, is still fresh.

Add to that the worst drought conditions in half a century, and now a record-setting heat wave, and conditions are perfect for more devastation.

Setting off your own fireworks under those conditions should be unthinkable.

And yet, they remain legal to buy and to light without a permit, as long as they follow Oregon law, which bans anything that flies through the air, explodes or behaves in an uncontrolled and unpredictable manner.

Other fireworks can be used with a permit from the state Fire Marshal’s Office, including bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers.

Of course, that doesn’t stop intrepid patriots from crossing state lines to procure the aforementioned flying/exploding devices and setting them off in your neighborhood without the required permit. (Bringing them into the state in the first place is illegal, too, by the way.)

Cities have enacted increasingly strict rules about the legal retail fireworks, and some, such as Medford, prohibit fireworks stands from selling them inside city limits. But Jackson County continues to allow them to set up shop just outside city boundaries.

The Jackson County commissioners brought up the topic of banning fireworks in the county in a study session last week, but it’s too late for any meaningful action this year.

This is not just an academic exercise. According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal, for the five years through 2019, there were 1,173 reported fireworks-related fires in Oregon, resulting in more than $4.9 million in damage to property and its contents. During that same period, fires resulting from fireworks resulted one death and 37 injuries.

Last year’s Labor Day fires weren’t the result of fireworks — as far as we know. The exact cause is still being investigated. But they might have.

That should be motivation enough to forgo the momentary enjoyment of waving some sparklers and lighting some ground bloom flowers. If you want to see aerial displays, they will be provided by professionals. Enjoy those instead.