Are fireworks safe this summer?
06.30.2020

Like most Oregonians, I’ve been spending a lot more time at home this spring. One thing I’ve noticed on the weekends is the frequent use of fireworks in my neighborhood. I live in southwest Portland, and I don’t think my neighborhood is particularly unique. I’m used to seeing this around holidays like New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July, but usually this doesn’t happen the rest of the year. I’m sure people are bored and looking for a little fun in their backyard or cul-de-sac.

The issue is that these aren’t normal times. We’re heading into fire season in Oregon, and it looks like this year will be very challenging. I’m worried that the increased use of fireworks will lead to an increase in human-caused fires this summer. Wildfires can start in a campground, on a neighborhood street and even in a backyard. One factor all these situations have in common is proximity to trees.

I know that during this global pandemic many of us don’t want to hear one more thing we can’t or shouldn’t do right now. I understand that feeling, and I miss seeing my friends, going to church, volunteering and just the general sense of freedom of movement.

One thing to keep in mind with fireworks is that even though they can be purchased legally, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of accidents. I experienced a very close call when my kids were little, and ever since I have had a great amount of respect for the professionals who put on fireworks shows safely. I was sitting on a blanket on the Oregon coast and watching a public fireworks display. Nearby many people were setting off their own personal shows, and they definitely rivaled the public one. I didn’t realize how close we were to a personal show until a firework went off about 50 yards away from me and my family. Instead of going straight up in the air the firework shot sideways, and I heard it whiz between me and my daughter. I looked over at my husband and we quickly left the beach. Since then, I don’t go down to the beach or out on the street to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks. I watch them from a safe distance.

This year going to a beach or park to watch a community-hosted fireworks show isn’t going to be an option, because it would be hard to maintain the social distancing that’s required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s sad that we won’t have public fireworks displays this summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to get close to a private display. Instead, I’m thinking of some fun alternatives to enjoy a fireworks-free summer this year. Here are a few ideas:

- play a game of flashlight tag

- use a camp stove to make your favorite s’mores

- have a red, white and blue water-balloon battle

- enjoy red, white and blue glow sticks

- think of the stars on the U.S. flag as you stargaze on the Fourth of July

I know these probably won’t replace a good old-fashioned fireworks display, but hopefully next year we will have our fireworks again and we’ll appreciate them even more.

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

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