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Be careful, dont misuse fireworks

It's that red, white and blue time of year again, when Oregonians will celebrate their freedom with family gatherings, picnics, horseshoes, and, of course, fireworks. But all that celebration can be ruined when someone ends up paying for a wildfire that is ignited from the careless use of fireworks. In the last six years, 152 wildfires were suppressed on state-protected lands as a result of careless handling or misuse of fireworks. These fires resulted in 121 charred acres and $343,197 in suppression dollars.

In 2005, three fireworks wildfires were started by motorists; six by people recreating and two by the general public. While the acres were kept small, it still cost $11,200 to suppress the fires. Guess who had to pay? The person who started the fire; or, in the case of a juvenile, the parent. By state statute, parents are legally responsible for at least $5,000 of the costs to put out fires caused by their child's use of fireworks.

Fireworks that explode, fly through the air, move more than 12 feet on smooth ground, or act in an uncontrolled manner are illegal in Oregon. Examples include firecrackers, bottle or sky rockets, Roman candles and chasers. Legal fireworks are sold only from June 23 through July 6 at licensed retail stands in Oregon. Sparklers, smoke and snakes can be purchased year round, but remember, sparklers have sparks, and can be dangerous if not used and discarded properly. Here are a few tips from the Keep Oregon Green Association:

n Leave the fireworks home if you're going into the woods. Fireworks are illegal in any national forest.

n Keep all fireworks away from small children.

n Always have an adult present when fireworks are being handled.

n Douse all misfired or spent fireworks in a bucket of water and leave them in the water overnight.

n Keep fireworks at least 25 feet from building, cars, trees and shrubs.

n Light only one firework at a time and move away quickly.

n Never point or throw fireworks at people, pets, cars or buildings.

n Fireworks can frighten pets, so be aware and put your pets inside.

Please, be concerned and be careful. Keep Oregon green by using legal fireworks in a safe and responsible manner.

Mary Ellen Holly is president of Keep Oregon Green Association, a Salem-based group 'dedicated to the prevention of fires since 1940.'