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Pop! Pow! Zing! Confiscated fireworks get a big send-off

by: Jaime Valdez, Assistant Fire Marshal Steve Forster looks at several boxes of illegal fireworks confiscated by authorities across the state.

A horde of confiscated, illegal fireworks collected by Beaverton police officers during the super-sized Fourth of July weekend will soon join a mounting pile of exploding balls and smoking projectiles that will go POW! BOOM! BANG! in a private show.

Don't get your hopes up that the Black Cat Hyper Vipers, 12-shot Sun Tracks, 36-Parachute Battalion and Red Devil Max Blast will light up and decorate the night sky.

These slated-for-destruction fireworks will instead be burned in a specially designed, carbon-steel Dumpster under the supervision of the Portland Police Bureau Bomb Squad and watchful eye of Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue.

Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue's board last week authorized an intergovernmental agreement with the state fire marshal's office and Portland police and fire agencies establishing a statewide storage and disposal process for fireworks.

Under the agreement, confiscated fireworks from across the state will be transported to a TVF and R facility, stored in a secured area and periodically destroyed.

'We are so excited about this partnership,' said Anita Phillips, of the state fire marshal's office. 'Now we have one location where confiscated and unwanted fireworks can be taken and safely disposed of.'

An estimated 300 to 700 pounds of illegal fireworks are collected every year from a variety of sources, including illegal shipments entering the state via the mail, trucking companies and Internet orders.

In the past, confiscated fireworks from across the region were sent to an incinerator in Salem for disposal.

However, a few years ago incinerator companies stopped accepting fireworks, prompting fire agencies to dispose of unwanted fireworks through small burns in portable burn containers.

'It didn't take long for fireworks to pile up, making it hard to keep up with the demand,' said Steve Forster, assistant fire marshal with TVF and R. 'Fire departments across the country are struggling with this problem.

'There are very few options to get rid of fireworks because nobody will take them off our hands.'

When it became clear that a larger and more collaborative effort was needed, the fire district worked with other state and regional partners to tackle the issue.

'We've come up with a new solution that will work,' Forster said. 'With the use of a heavy-duty Dumpster that holds up under high temperatures for longer periods of time, we will be able to destroy unwanted fireworks safely.'

The Dumpster has a steel mesh lid and vents to allow air in while fully containing fire and explosives, Forster said.

'The fireworks will burn rather than ignite and launch as they are intended to,' he added. 'I'm sure there will be a lot of bangs, booms and pops, but the fireworks show will be 100 percent contained within the Dumpster.'

The fire district and its partners are proud to take the lead in finding a solution to the statewide problem.

'It was a daunting task at first, but we've come up with a solution to a really difficult problem,' Forster said.

Phillips agreed and added, 'We now have a safe and organized way to dispose of unwanted fireworks.'