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Light a firework, feel the 'pain'

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Light an illegal firework in Medford and you will get slapped with a $2,500 fine.

Medford City Council, mindful of wildfire danger, property damage and the potential for injury, decided Thursday that residents who ignore the law should pay more than the previous $250 fine.

“I think there needs to be pain,” said Councilor Alex Poythress, who made the motion to raise the fine.

Poythress thought a proposal to raise the fine to $1,000 wasn’t enough.

Councilor Clay Bearnson said, “This should hurt.”

The council decided not to follow through on a proposed ban of all fireworks, instead limiting the days “legal” fireworks can be ignited from July 1 to July 6. Under the previous law, fireworks could be lit from June 23 to July 6.

Legal fireworks include cone fountains, cylindrical fountains, sparklers, spinners, illuminating torches, party poppers, smoke bombs and snakes.

Illegal fireworks include firecrackers, Roman candles, cherry bombs, M-80s, mortars and rockets — basically anything that explodes, flies or travels more than 12 feet in any direction is banned year round under Oregon law.

Legal fireworks such as sparklers or spinners are also allowed when we’re not in fire season, which starts June 1.

In the past five years, the city has had up to 12 calls on July 4 for vegetation and garbage fires related to fireworks, and most of the calls were for illegal fireworks.

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

Medford doesn’t allow any fireworks in hazardous wildfire areas near Roxy Ann or on the Bear Creek Greenway, or 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 “legal” fireworks in areas with a limited potential for starting a fire.

The ban on fireworks near Roxy Ann and other hazardous wildfire areas around the city has resulted in far fewer problems.

Medford Fire Chief Brian Fish told the council it’s difficult to track down residents who explode illegal fireworks. He said it helps police if neighbors can pinpoint where the illegal fireworks are being lit.

Fish said officers may target areas in Medford that have had issues with illegal fireworks in the past.

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.

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Medford City Council increases the fine for illegal fireworks to $2,500.