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Chemical smoke bombs might be legal

A few weeks ago, the Mail Tribune published a picture of a fan at a Timbers game holding a smoke “bomb” that put out a huge green smoke plume. I have since found these devices on the Internet and learned that they are used in paintball activity, at weddings and just general fun events. The smoke is apparently generated by a chemical reaction and there is no incendiary process. So, would popping off a few of these bad boys within Medford city limits be in violation of the fireworks ordinance or any other ordinance?

— Ted K., Medford

We’re concerned that this is less of a question and more of a potential permission slip, Ted.


Either way, “traditional” smoke bombs, or devices that contain 100 grains or less of a combustible substance, are not illegal to use, according to Medford Fire-Rescue Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg and ORS 480.111, section 5.

“Larger smoke devices would not be exempt (from the law), and misuse of such devices could endanger the public,” Kleinberg told us in an email.

So it really varies from device to device. That’s something you may want to check with your local fire department if you’re unsure.

In addition — and this is pretty obvious, but we’ll say it anyway — something doesn’t have to be illegal for you to use it in an illegal manner.

“Smoke bombs should never be used to intimidate or surprise a crowd, which could be considered reckless endangerment,” Kleinberg said. “Smoke can also be hazardous to motorists, blinding them from seeing what’s ahead. It can also tie up emergency resources by creating a scenario where people think a structure is on fire and call 911. With this said, people should act responsibly with such devices.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.