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Fireworks spark debate with council

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Fans of fireworks may be disappointed July 4 if Medford City Council follows through Thursday with a proposed ban on sparklers, snakes, spinners and other fireworks.

“We would be taking away the capstone of a great day for the people and children of Medford,” said Councilor Kevin Stine, who opposes a ban.

The council will also consider raising the fine on illegal fireworks from $250 to $1,000.

Faced with the threat of wildfires or accidents, the city is considering various ways of controlling fireworks, including limiting the duration when they can be ignited.

Under current law, fireworks can be lit only from June 23 to July 6. Fireworks such as sparklers or spinners are also allowed when we’re not in fire season, which starts June 1. But fireworks that explode, fly or travel more than 12 feet in any direction are banned year round under Oregon law.

The council, at a 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., will consider various options to control fireworks other than an outright ban or an increase in the fine.

One proposal would be to limit the time when legal fireworks could be lit, such as from 6 to 11 p.m., July 4, and from 6 to 1 p.m., Jan. 1.

In the past five years, the city has had up to 12 calls on July 4 for vegetation and garbage fires.

“We’re not having many issues,” Stine said.

His family enjoys lighting fireworks on July 4, and Stine knows of many other families who celebrate with a sparkler or two.

He said the city’s current ban on illegal fireworks hasn’t worked, so he doesn’t think a ban on legal fireworks is going to work either.

“Banning fireworks is not going to stop these people,” he said. “But they will be less likely to call for help if there is a fire.”

Medford currently doesn’t allow any fireworks in hazardous wildfire areas, on the Bear Creek Greenway and at public school properties. Sales of fireworks are prohibited in the city.

The city had a total ban on fireworks until 2009, but since then has allowed fireworks in areas with a limited potential for starting a fire.

According to a report from Medford Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg, the complete ban was ineffective and very difficult to enforce.

As a result, he said, enforcement officers need more teeth to make sure people follow the rules.

“I definitely think we should see an increase in the fines for the Oregon illegal fireworks,” he said.

An existing ban on fireworks near Roxy Ann and other hazardous wildfire areas around the city has resulted in far fewer problems, Kleinberg said.

But Kleinberg said he would leave it up to the council whether it wants to ban fireworks everywhere in the city.

“We’re not really taking a position,” he said.

In the past, fireworks have resulted in property damage. In 2017, one structure sustained $80,000 in damage.

Kleinberg said he remembers more than five years ago when kids took the powder out of fireworks and a bedroom caught on fire.

He said there is the potential for considerable property damage and injury from fireworks.

The National Fire Protection Association has found fireworks were responsible for 18,500 reported fires each year in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 12,900 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks in 2017, with sparklers accounting for one-quarter of the injuries.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Medford City Council has proposed a city wide ban on fireworks.
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