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‘Keep it legal, keep it safe’

Fire officials urge residents to be safe with July 4 fireworks

With fireworks going on sale Wednesday, Medford Fire-Rescue has teamed up with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, natural resource agencies and fireworks wholesalers to urge Oregonians to “keep it legal and keep it safe.”

This message rings louder amid a handful of fires in Southern Oregon over the past week, and with the region suffering from severe drought.

“We want people to be able to celebrate our national holiday, but we want people to do it safely,” Deputy Fire Marshal Samantha Metheny said.

Legal fireworks can be used in the city of Medford except on the Bear Creek Greenway, within wildfire risk areas (hillside areas), within any city park or at any public school.

Any fireworks that fly into the air, explode or travel more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground, such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers, without a permit issued by the Office of the State Fire Marshal are illegal.

By allowing “safe and sane” fireworks, the fire department can offer public education on how to use them safely. If all fireworks were banned it would gag the fire department because discussing their safe use could appear as if they were condoning them.

“Years ago we had a total ban on fireworks, and what we found is that fireworks-related fires went up,” Metheny said. “I think it becomes the forbidden fruit, you can’t have it, therefore you want it more.”

In 2020, Americans bought 385.8 million pounds of fireworks — the most ever, and a 55% increase from 2019. Children 4 and younger are the most likely to be injured by fireworks — 5.3 injuries per 100,000 — followed by 15- to 19-year-olds — 4.4 injuries per 100,000.

Officers may seize illegal fireworks, and offenders can be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of up to $2,500.

Metheny recommends keeping a bucket of water or hose nearby, keeping children and pets away from fireworks, never relighting duds, and waiting 15 to 20 minutes before soaking them.

“Our hope is that it is a deterrent and to help those folks who are in the neighborhood who are concerned,” she said.

Reach Mail Tribune news intern William Seekamp at wseekamp@rosebudmedia.com.