By Vanessa Miali | CNA Media Team
What is it about fireworks that brings out the worst in some people? Either it’s an enthusiast – with hours of illegal fireworks blasting throughout the night, shrapnel and burning embers flying onto adjacent lawns and rooftops – or it’s a neighbor – stressed out by the fireworks and making verbal threats.
Tony Reyes, American Legion Post 134 commander compared using an occasional legal firework to celebrating with candles on a birthday cake.
“It’s part of our heritage, a ceremony and a tradition. But Fourth of July fireworks become an issue because people are not educated on safety, and that’s their responsibility.”
According to Portland Fire & Rescue, fireworks season is June 23-July 4. During the past five years, fireworks have caused more than $3 million in property damage.
“Fireworks upset domestic animals and urban wildlife, and they distress the elderly,” said Dianne Foster, a Concordian for the past 21 years. In 2011, she witnessed a rooftop fire on the Fourth of July above a business on Alberta Street.
“It made me aware of our close proximity to one another and the damage that can occur in a moment,” she said. “The potential for destruction is great. People can lose their homes.”
Oregon law bans possession, use or sale of fireworks that fly, explode or travel more than six feet on the ground or 12 inches in the air. Fines are hefty, as much as $1,000 per violation.
An Oregon Public Broadcasting report indicated a legal smoke bomb, thrown by a teenager, may have been responsible in part for the Eagle Creek blaze devastating 10,000 acres of the Columbia Gorge landscape in 2017.
Under Oregon law, parents are liable for fireworks damage caused by their children, including costs to suppress the fire.
“Fireworks in neighborhoods stresses people out,” said April Thibault-Phillips, American Legion member and bartender. “I hear it from our customers who are veterans and I see how it affects them, especially those with PTSD. I’m not opposed to fireworks but I prefer going to the event downtown and think others should too.”
All types of fireworks can cause injuries. In 2017, illegal mortars and legal fountains and sparklers accounted for more than two-thirds of all fireworks-related injuries according to Portland Fire & Rescue.
It recommends using legal fireworks, supervising children, having water nearby and placing fireworks debris in closed metal cans stored away from combustibles and buildings.
Vanessa Miali has lived in Concordia for 18 years. She is a former public relations professional with two kids who cooks every day and gardens occasionally.