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Fireworks on the hot seat in Talent

Talent residents are being asked to weigh in on whether the city should restrict fireworks, including whether to ban them altogether.

Police Chief Tim Doney suggested the survey, offered on the city's website, at a January City Council session where he gave a report on fireworks in Talent. So far about three dozen responses have been received.

"Fireworks is one of those topics that people are pretty passionate about on either side the fence," Doney said Wednesday. "Sometimes that can be a little challenging for authorities. You find a lot of folks that are passionate on one side of the topic."

Ashland has banned use of all retail fireworks year-round. Other Rogue Valley municipalities have varying regulations but do allow use.

Talent’s survey asks just one question: "Are you in favor of the Talent City Council restricting the use of legal fireworks within the city limits, up to and possibly including a complete ban on usage and sales?" There is also opportunity to enter comments.

Its website says it's considering restrictions “due to potential for fire danger, injuries, and the fact that fireworks can have a negative impact on children, animals and some military veterans.”

“We are pretty far away from any council action on that,” City Manager Sandra Spelliscy said Wednesday. She said the City Council had brought up the issue for discussion and requested the presentation from Doney to gain information.

Calls to Talent police about fireworks have varied in number over the last seven years, but average more than seven per year. There were five calls in 2018, the lowest number, and 14 in 2017. The highest total was 16 in 2014. Countywide statistics show an average of 534 calls to law enforcement over the last seven years; 2018 had the fewest calls, with 450, while 2013 was the peak, with 598 calls.

The selling period for legal fireworks in Oregon in 2018 was June 23 through July 6. Legal fireworks do not include devices that fly, explode or travel more than six feet on the ground or one foot in the air.

Most problems are caused by illegal fireworks, Doney said. In Medford, law enforcement issued six citations last year and seized 110 fireworks for violations of its fireworks rules.

Regulation of fireworks varies by town, with some municipalities having no restrictions except for state law. Towns without regulations include Eagle Point and Central Point. Medford allows legal fireworks except in parks, school grounds and the wildland/urban interface. Phoenix allows legal fireworks during the state sale period only. Jacksonville excludes legal fireworks from parks.

While legal fireworks are prohibited in Ashland, three items regarded as novelties — smoke bombs, snakes and party poppers — may be used. Any spark-producing items are prohibited.

Jackson County Fire District 5, which provides service for Talent, responded to one call related to fireworks in city limits during 2018. A 2018 trash fire was possibly caused by fireworks. There did not appear to be much damage from the blaze, Doney said.

In Phoenix, also served by Fire District 5, a small blackberry bush caught fire from the use of legal fireworks, but didn’t cause damage. District 5 figures for the two cities over the last five years show five fires started by fireworks and no injuries.

A supervisor at the Jackson County Animal Shelter told Doney that the number of loose and stray animals picked up by the organization usually doubles around Fourth of July. Instead of two or three, they will pick up five or six animals.

“Our intent is to keep (the survey) open for a while,” said Doney. The survey likely would be concluded when responses drop off. The survey can be found at www.cityoftalent.org/News.asp?NewsID=202.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Talent is asking residents whether they favor more regulation of fireworks. Mail Tribune / file photo