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Keep those fireworks safe and legal

Police will seize illegal fireworks on holiday patrols


by: FILE PHOTO - Firework stands opened last week and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue wants to remind the public to "Keep it Legal, and Keep it Safe" this Fourth of July.

On average, TVF&R crews respond to about 50 firework fires each year and almost all of them can be prevented by using legal fireworks in a safe manner, said Karen Eubanks, fire district spokeswoman.

"Most firework-related fires are caused by careless use, or improper disposal of, legal fireworks," she added.

Keep it legal

Oregon law bans fireworks that fly, explode or move across the ground more than 6 feet or up in the air more than 12 inches. Fireworks purchased by mail order or in the state of Washington or on Native American reservations may also be illegal in Oregon. This includes popular items such as bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers and M80s.

To keep it legal, purchase all fireworks at a licensed Oregon firework stand or retail outlet, Eubanks said.

Beaverton police officers will be patrolling neighborhoods on Wednesday to enforce firework laws.

"You will see officers seizing all illegal fireworks," said Officer Mike Rowe, Beaverton police spokesman. "There has been an outpouring from the community, asking us to be heavy on enforcement this year because of the abundance of illegal fireworks over the last few Fourth of Julys.

"We've received more neighborhood complaints."

Under Oregon law, law enforcement officers can seize illegal fireworks as well as issue fines up to $500 per violation.

"Individuals found with illegal fireworks can potentially face arrest and criminal prosecution," Rowe added.

They can also be held civilly liable for damages resulting from improper use of any fireworks - legal or illegal. This includes parents whose children start a fire.

In an effort to curb illegal firework activity, TVF&R firefighters will team up with police officers to conduct neighborhood drive-bys.

Individuals concerned about neighbors using fireworks are reminded that Fourth of July festivities result in increased activity for all public safety agencies, including crowd control, fires, medical emergencies, traffic issues and criminal activity. Individuals needing to report a fire or medical emergency should call 911; individuals wishing to report a nuisance or concern about illegal fireworks should do so via the non-emergency number 503-629-0111. These situations will be logged and passed on to local enforcement, and responded to as resources allow.

Keep It Safe

Even legal fireworks cause fires and injuries, Eubanks said. She suggests the following tips to help ensure safety:

• Only adults should light or handle fireworks. Supervise children at all times.

• Store fireworks, matches and lighters out of the reach of children.

• Use fireworks outdoors on a paved surface, away from buildings, vehicles and vegetation.

• Never pick up or try to re-light a "dud."

• Never alter fireworks or make your own.

• Have a hose nearby in case of fire and place "spent" fireworks in a bucket of water.

"One of the most common fires that TVF&R responds to involves spent fireworks placed in a bucket or grocery sack that rekindle and spread to fences, decks and even homes," Eubanks said.