The Fourth of July is a wonderful time to commemorate the birth of our country, complete with barbecues, parades and fireworks.

But please remember to stay safe this long holiday weekend, whether you are driving to visit friends and family far afield, or are celebrating with a personal fireworks show in the comfort of your own backyard.

Last year, according to Oregon State Police, four people died in four separate traffic accidents around the Fourth of July holiday. Three of those crashes were alcohol-involved.

This year, take your time to get where you need to go, and don’t drive if you’ve been drinking. This sounds like a no-brainer, but when 75 percent of crashes over a holiday weekend are due to impaired driving, that’s a sign that we don’t always think before getting behind the wheel. Don’t forget that police agencies, like Marion County Sheriff’s Office, are adding extra patrols over the weekend to specifically hunt down impaired drivers. You can do your part by reporting erratic behavior in other drivers by calling 911 or1-800-24DRUNK (800-243-7865), which is OSP’s line.

When it comes to fireworks, the state fire marshal’s quip, “Keep it legal and keep it safe”?means no fireworks that travel more than six feet on the ground or 12 inches into the air. This includes bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers. Oregon law also prohibits the use of fireworks in most public places, including campgrounds, parks and beaches.

While it might sound like the government is trying to suppress everyone’s fun, consider this:?There were 197 reported fireworks-related fires in Oregon last year, resulting in one death, 38 injuries and more than $775,000 in property damage.

Over the past five years, from 2009 through 2013, there were 905 reported fireworks-related fires in Oregon resulting in one death, 150 civilian injuries, and more than $4.4 million in property damage. So be careful, have water on hand and keep children and pets away.

Speaking of pets, remember that while fireworks are exciting for humans, they’re terrifying for animals, who often run away from home. So keep your pet inside, away from windows and doors during the holiday festivities — with their collar and identification tags on, in case they bolt — and if you see a lost animal, notify the Humane Society ( has details on what to do).

Please stay safe this Fourth of July and enjoy, because celebration is what this day is all about!

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