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EDITORIAL: 'Keep it legal, keep it safe'

Fourth of July will only be fun if we make it safe for all residents of West Linn


One of West Linn's favorite times of the year arrives Wednesday with the celebration of the Fourth of July. This is the nation's holiday, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when the nation offically declared independence from England. Today, the holiday is associated with fireworks, parades, family time, concerts and the like.

And while it is a festive time (see our rundown of events on page B6 as well as the front-page story), it also represents a potentially dangerous holiday what with catastrophes associated with fires and personal injuries from fireworks.

A number of organizations are working to get your attention and keep the holiday safe and fun. The Office of the State Fire Marshal, fire service, natural resource agencies, Oregon fireworks wholesalers and safety experts encourage Oregonians to "Keep it legal and keep it safe" when using fireworks. The 2012 Oregon fireworks sales season, which opened last Saturday, runs through July 6.

"The OSFM and their partners want everyone to know what fireworks are legal in Oregon, where they are permitted and the important steps to take for fireworks safety. People often forget that legal fireworks can only be purchased from Oregon permitted fireworks retailers and stands," said state Fire Marshal Mark Wallace. "And, regulations limit where those fireworks may be used. For example, fireworks are prohibited on all Oregon beaches, in parks and campgrounds."

Here are some rules and suggestions offered by the OSFM:

- Oregon law bans possession, use or sale of fireworks that fly, explode or travel more than 6 feet on the ground or 12 inches into the air. Fireworks commonly called bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers are illegal in Oregon.

- Under Oregon law, officials may seize illegal fireworks and fine offenders up to $500 per violation. Those who misuse fireworks or allow fireworks to cause damage are liable and may be required to pay fire suppression costs or other damage. Parents are also liable for fireworks damage caused by their children.

- There were 172 reported fireworks-related fires in Oregon during 2011, resulting in more than $1 million in property damage. Over the past five years, from 2007 through 2011, there were 942 reported fireworks-related fires in Oregon resulting in one death, 85 civilian injuries and more than $4.6 million in property damage.

- The OSFM encourages everyone to use the four B's of safe fireworks use:

1) Be prepared before lighting fireworks: Keep water available by using a garden hose or bucket.

2) Be safe when lighting fireworks: Keep children and pets away from fireworks.

3) Be responsible after lighting fireworks: Never relight a dud. Wait 15 to 20 minutes, then soak it in a bucket of water before disposal.

4) Be aware: Use only legal fireworks and use them only in legal places.

More fireworks information is available at Oregon.gov/OSP/SFM-/Licensing_Fireworks_Home.shtml.

Another agency that is trying to raise awareness about the danger of fireworks, especially fireworks-related eye injuries, is the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The academy notes that of the 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, 21 percent impact the eyes and more than half of the victims are young children or teenagers.Fireworks of all types, including sparklers, are dangerous, the AAO notes. Sparklers typically burn at 1,200 degrees F and cause 27 percent of all fireworks injuries, including third-degree burns. Bottle rockets cause some of the most serious eye injuries. Errant bottle rockets can injure bystanders and cause eyelid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage and complete blindness. One in every six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness.

Here are a couple reminders from AAO:

- Never let children play with fireworks of any type.

- View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.

- Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.

- Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.

- If you find unexploded fireworks, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.

- If you experience an eye injury during a fireworks accident, seek immediate medical help from an ophthalmologist or an eye medical doctor.

The Fourth of July should be a fun day for all Americans. Do your part to keep it safe and that will help ensure that the good times will follow.

Happy birthday, America.