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Illegal fireworks draw $1,000 fine

Firefighters will be cruising town this Fourth of July to spot hazardous firework piles and fine forbidden displays

With the Fourth of July weekend just around the corner, firefighters are warning that the illicit Oregon tradition of driving up I-5 to buy fireworks in Washington could cost a lot more than the price of a dozen Roman candles.

Last year, Forest Grove firefighters and police issued four citations for illegal fireworks use in the city, with each ticket drawing a $1,000 fine.

This year, fire crews will be on the lookout for violations again, handing out tickets to anyone lighting up fireworks that break Oregon's strict regulations.

'We're not about ruining anyone's fun,' said Forest Grove Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer. 'It's about keeping folks safe and these are rules that we're tasked with enforcing.'

Oregon's laws ban the recreational use of any firework that explodes, flies into the air, travels more than six feet horizontally or a foot vertically from the point of ignition.

That rules out a lot of Fourth of July mainstays from other states like Washington, where fireworks regulations are more lax.

In the Portland Metro area, with Vancouver - home to many fireworks emporiums - just a short drive away, illegal fireworks are more common than further down state.

That makes for plenty of work for firefighters on the evening of the fourth.

'It's a tough thing because they are so prolific, they're everywhere,' said Nemeyer. 'You're not going to catch all of them.'

Last year was Forest Grove's first effort to snuff out illegal fireworks with patrols, a tradition that is returning this year. Cornelius will also have additional fire department presence throughout the city.

Nemeyer said though illegal fireworks are the major concern, even the tamer variety can cause problems.

'Our big fireworks fires over the past two years in Forest Grove were because people disposed of them improperly,' Nemeyer said.

Fireworks should be soaked once they're spent.

Nemeyer said studies show Oregon's laws help prevent fireworks-related fires.

'Oregon's fireworks laws, even though they are a bit more boring, are safer,' Nemeyer said.