Our Northwest

Think twice before lighting off fireworks this year

Sunday, July 2, 2017by  Erin Osgood

boy holding a sparkler at dusk

The 4th of July is traditionally the time to break out your barbecue, jump in the water, and spend time with friends and family. But if your holiday bash usually includes a do-it-yourself fireworks display, you might want to rethink how you celebrate this year.

While consumer-grade fireworks are legal according to Washington and Oregon state laws, more and more cities have put tough restrictions on their use in the last year. To make things even more complicated, burn bans are in effect across parts of Washington and Oregon due to dry conditions (see our "Don't Get Burned" website for links to the latest burn ban info). And fire and law enforcement officials in both states are asking Northwest residents to limit their use of fireworks this year, or forgo them entirely.

Officials are mostly concerned by the number of fireworks-related accidents that happen around this time of year, and the amount of damage they can cause to both people and property. According to a recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report, consumer fireworks were responsible for 11,100 injuries in 2016. It’s easy to think that disaster won’t happen to you – but it can.

Take last year’s 4th of July as an example. I was celebrating with my cousins in Snoqualmie, Wash., (where fireworks are legal) when we heard sirens on the other side of the neighborhood. A stray spark had landed on someone’s roof, sending the entire house up in flames. Luckily no one was hurt, but it caused the family $700,000 in damages and months in a hotel while they rebuilt their home.

I don’t want to see that happen to anyone else. If you’re thinking about buying some fancy fireworks this holiday, please remember the 4 Be’s of firework safety:

  • Be prepared

    ...and read all of the labels on your fireworks before you light them. Make sure you have lots of water and a fire extinguisher on hand to douse any flare-ups.
  • Be safe

    ...by picking a launching area that is far away from all people, pets, and flammable structures. Make sure an adult is in charge of lighting all fuses, and only light one at a time.
  • Be responsible

    ...by soaking all used fireworks in a big bucket of water. If you get a dud, don’t try to re-light it!
  • Be aware

    ...of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for others who are using their fireworks dangerously, and report them if things get out of hand.

You can find more information on Washington laws and Oregon laws.

When it comes down to it, use your best judgment. Be safe and have an awesome Independence Day weekend!

​(Note: This blog has been updated since it was originally published on June 30, 2015.)

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