Clackamas Countians Urged to Refrain from Fireworks for Fourth

More emergency response agencies and officials are joining the chorus begging residents to refrain from fireworks displays this Fourth of July due to extreme temperatures and other conditions that have turned the region into a tinderbox.

The Canby Fire District was one of the first agencies to ask citizens to celebrate their independence without pyrotechnics Monday afternoon, with the area still in the grips of a suffocating and historic heat wave.

A number of communities, including Portland, Bend and Eugene, barred the use of all fireworks — including ones normally legal in the state — until after July Fourth. Unlike cities, fire districts lack the authority under Oregon law to enact such a ban.

On Tuesday, Clackamas Fire and the Clackamas County Fire Defense Board issued a joint statement asking Clackamas Countians to celebrate responsibly in light of the very real risk of wildfire.

“During this time of prolonged heat and dry conditions overlapping the Fourth of July holiday, the risk of a hostile fire to occur is significant,” officials said. “Please consider celebrating the holiday by attending a professional show or in other ways that do not include the use of fireworks.”

In smaller communities like Canby, officials were more reticent to ban fireworks, citing various reasons.

In a live Facebook video Tuesday afternoon, Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser Tuesday said he had received numerous messages — and even threats — from citizens demanding that he impose such a prohibition, but felt it was a matter of personal freedom.

“Y’all know what to do,” he said. “I mean, the party I’m going to, we’ve already said we’re not doing fireworks. If you see somebody out there, go put it out. … Guys, I’m not here to take your rights away. I’m not here to take your freedoms away. And messaging me and threatening me, that’s not going to fix nothing.”

With the state’s coronavirus restrictions set to expire Wednesday, Keyser and others also acknowledged wanting to make room for residents to enjoy the state’s first post-Covid holiday without imposing new mandates.

Silverton Mayor Kyle Palmer suggested that a ban in his community might only push displays into more rural areas outside city limits — where the fire danger would be even greater and emergency responders farther away.

“Much has been taken from us over the past 18 months, and I am committed to seeing our community find as much normalcy as possible as we exit the restrictions that Covid has caused,” Palmer explained.

“If that includes a family gathering to watch legal Oregon fireworks in a controlled environment, I ask you to be extremely safe and remember that you should do so on a concrete surface or a large board, with water on hand.”

With the devastating wildfires of September 2020 a not-so-distant memory — and the scorching heat wave of this weekend a much more recent one — many area residents seemed eager to follow Keyser’s lead in voluntarily foregoing fireworks until conditions improve.

The Canby Rod and Gun Club announced it will not allow fireworks or campfires at a Western Regional Independent Trapshooting Association event this weekend.

“Please leave them all at home,” Canby trapshooting coach Chuck McClaugherty said in a Facebook post.

Local law enforcement and fire agencies are asking residents not to report the use of legal or illegal fireworks this week, but to call 911 only in the event of a fire or medical emergency.

“This is normally the busiest time of year for emergency responders and dispatchers without record temperatures, and the heat has proven difficult for the most vulnerable in our communities,” Clack Fire officials said. “Only call 911 to report emergencies. Preventing fires requires collective effort and goes beyond fireworks.”

For those planning to fire up the charcoal grill, fire officials remind to discard used briquettes and ashes in a metal can far away from your house, deck and other combustibles.

Never discard cigarettes out a car window or into landscaping. And if you’re using an ashtray or metal container, make sure it’s partially filled with sand or water to extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials.

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