All the booms and bangs around town are a reminder that the Fourth of July is right around the corner.
As heat and drought continue to blanket the Northwest, cities and fire officials across the state are banning fireworks as the holiday approaches, but Klamath Falls and Klamath County are not among them.
Local city officials in Klamath Falls decided Tuesday after a meeting with fire officials to not ban fireworks this year.
”Based on conversations it does not appear that the city is going to implement a ban on fireworks this year,” said Kristina Mainwaring, public information administrator for the city.
Mainwaring said the city decided to not ban fireworks, given that they have already been selling for weeks. Also, the city would have to work in conjunction with the county to enforce the ban without any pre-planning, given that the holiday is only a few days away.
Both Portland and Bend have banned the use of fireworks given the increased fire risk. The Portland ban was issued Tuesday by Portland Fire & Rescue and in Bend, a state of emergency declared by the city on Monday included a ban on all public fireworks through July 9.
In Clark County, Wash., officials banned the sale and use of fireworks beginning Tuesday, June 29 until midnight on the Fourth.
Mainwaring said Klamath Falls will enforce its current city code when it comes to fireworks. She added that the city might take the extra step of banning fireworks next year if drought conditions persist, which would be easier than banning them a few days before the holiday.
Ryan Brosterhous, a captain with the Klamath Falls Police Department, said the department will be on heightened alert with fireworks, given the drought situation and possibility of fires.
“We understand the patriotism of the Fourth of July celebration and we like people to celebrate and congregate, but things will be looked at a little differently this year,” Brosterhous said.
Brosterhous noted that shooting off fireworks within the city jurisdiction is already a code violation, but this year, the offense could be elevated to a criminal violation if a firework ends up causing a fire.
“If a firework causes a fire it could be a criminal event such as reckless burning,” Brosterhous said. “We don’t want that for anybody so we urge the public to use their best judgment and common sense, and to take the advice of fire professionals,” Brosterhous said.
Brosterhous said so far there hasn’t been an excessive amount of calls about fireworks, but made it clear that anyone who causes danger to others, damage to property or starts a fire, the police will enforce the law.
“We would lean more towards enforcement action than education and learning,” Brosterhous added.
Brandon Fowler, emergency manager for the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, urged residents to enjoy the holiday, but to do it safely.
He suggested enjoying some of the professional fireworks shows taking place around town this weekend, such as the Klamath Freedom Days on Sunday, July 4, at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. Events at the fairgrounds begin at 4 p.m. and last until 11 p.m., and the fireworks display begins after dark, at roughly 10 p.m.
Prior to the display, there will be an Independence Day Parade along Main street through downtown, starting at noon. The parade kicks off from the Klamath County Museum.
“We have a very patriotic community and we want to show that off,” Fowler said. “Just be smart about it.”
Fowler also suggested that in lieu of buying a bunch of fireworks this year, it might be a better idea to donate to worthwhile organizations that raise funds by selling fireworks.
During the Klamath County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, board chair Kelley Minty Morris said she has heard from many people asking the county to ban fireworks this year. Minty Morris said that while the county did not consider a ban this year, she encouraged people to watch public displays and forgo any DIY alternatives.
”Celebrate, but let’s just not accidentally light something on fire,” Minty Morris said. “The best solution is to go watch the public fireworks and don’t light fireworks at home.”
Les Pierce, the manager at Discount Fireworks Superstore in Klamath Falls, said firework sales have been relatively normal, compared to prior years. He offers advice for shoppers who decide to shoot off their own, despite the dry conditions.
“We want to make sure that you pick an area that is safe and where you can keep things under control,” Pierce said. “Get a good area that is not around dry weeds. A black top, or cement or gravel. Always have a water source there. Sprayers full of water work, buckets of water, too. As soon as you are done, you put the product in the water or soak it. And be as safe as you can be.”
— Reporter Joe Siess can be reached at (541)-885-4481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jomsiess