Some cities in the western United States are banning fireworks ahead of the July 4 weekend amid fears that pyrotechnics could set off catastrophic wildfires during a historic heat wave.
Authorities warn that the combination of record temperatures, extreme drought conditions and home fireworks creates a tinderbox-like situation that could quickly turn devastating.
In Portland, Oregon, which broke records on Monday when it peaked at 116F (47C) – the fire department issued a ban on all fireworks due to high temperatures and dry conditions, according to the city’s ABC affiliate, KATU. Bend and Tualatin, Oregon, have also banned the use of fireworks until July 9, the news station reported. reported. However, Bend still has two public fireworks events scheduled for the holiday.
“If we don’t take this proactive step now, I’m afraid the consequences could be devastating,” said Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone. saying in a sentence. “It’s not easy to make a decision like this this close to our national holiday, but as a fire marshal I feel I have a greater responsibility to make unpopular decisions during unprecedented times to protect life, property and the environment.”
Several areas in southwestern Washington state have also issued bans. Clark County officials have banned the sale and use of fireworks in parts of the county from June 29 to midnight July 4 due to significant fire hazards.
“We recognize that this decision will cause some difficulties for some residents’ celebration plans, as well as businesses and nonprofits that sell fireworks,” said Eileen Quiring O’Brien, President of the County Council, according to KATU. “We identify with all those affected, but we must follow county codes. They are in place to protect the welfare and safety of Clark County residents. “
Nick Swinhart, Fire Chief for the Camas-Washougal area of Washington State, saying that banning the use and sale of fireworks was a “very difficult decision to make” but, “considering the high fire danger, it was considered the only possible decision to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods, communities and green spaces.”
“The threat of fireworks starting a fire in these extreme conditions is too high to allow the use of fireworks on July 4,” Swinhart added.
In Yreka, California, located less than 30 miles from the furious Lava fire, which has already consumed more than 13,000 acres – city officials also announced a ban on fireworks, according to KOBI5, an affiliate of NBC. “Due to the adverse conditions, the sale and public display of fireworks is prohibited. [within] city limits until further notice … Fireworks activity [within] The city limits will be prosecuted, ”they said in a statement.
There have been local bans on the private use of fireworks in other parts of the western United States, including some municipalities in Utah and Montana. Some cities, like Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and tourist spots have canceled their shows.
“Grass always catches fire … Why are we doing something that starts a fire when fire is our biggest problem?” said Winnie DelliQuadri, city project manager in Steamboat Springs, according to The Associated Press.
The Yavapai-Apache Nation, which has routinely held a fireworks display outside its casino near Camp Verde in central Arizona, has also canceled its display, AP reported.
“This year, with conditions worse than last year, we decided in May that we would not have fireworks,” a spokesman for the nation’s Cliff Castle Casino hotel told the AP. “Based on the large fires currently raging in and around our community, we are happy with our decision.”
Fireworks have already ignited several small forest fires this year; one was in central California and the other, caused by a small child, was in Utah. In 2020, a firework broke out at a “gender reveal” party sparked a wildfire in California, resulting in the death of a firefighter.
“As a fire scientist, I am preparing for this fire season because of how dry and hot it is already,” Jennifer Balch, director of the Earth Lab at the University of Colorado, told AP. “I think fireworks right now are a terrible idea.”
Experts and officials worry that the 2021 wildfire season may outshine the 2020 season, the worst on record. Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with his cabinet and leaders from western states on Wednesday to discuss the biggest wildfire threat. according to the Los Angeles Times.