They’re pretty, they’re loud and they can be dangerous. The Eugene City Council has been discussing changes to fireworks rules for more than a decade, but when the council called for the Jan. 27 work session on the topic after a fireworks-induced blaze destroyed a home in July, the discussion pointed to problems getting worse.
Eugene Fire Marshall Al Gerard will present information about fireworks and safety to City Council at the work session. “Over my career, which started in 1991 in Springfield, I’ve seen a gradual but very steady increase in the use of illegal fireworks,” he says. Oregon law prohibits fireworks that fly more than a foot into the air, with a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. Washington law is more permissive, and some Oregonians travel north to purchase the illegal incendiaries.
Legal fireworks used correctly are less of a safety issue. “What we try to do is educate on proper techniques and safety usage of legal fireworks,” Gerard says. “If proper procedures are followed, we have very little problem with legal fireworks. We do receive some complaints about noise.”
“The problems we have with legal fireworks are inappropriate use,” Gerard says. “Anybody who modifies a firework of any type is violating a federal law and manufacturing an explosive device.”
Other complaints about fireworks center on noise, which can distress some animals, little kids and veterans. Legal fireworks can be sold each year June 23 through July 6, and Gerard says changing that time frame is something that City Council may consider.
EPD keeps records of the number of calls it receives about fireworks during the annual fireworks sales period. From 2009 to 2013, calls in the Eugene area numbered 174, 133, 214, 177 and 247, chronologically. Springfield calls numbered 40, 89, 84, 111 and 103.