Councilor’s concerns spark discussion about fireworks

The July 12 Lebanon City Council meeting ended with a discussion about planning for fireworks safety before next July.

Councilors Rebecca Grizzle, Jason Bolen and City Manager Gary Marks were absent from the meeting, which lasted half an hour –  about a third of the usual duration.

Robert Furlow mentioned his concerns about firework safety during the time allotted for items from council.

He said there seems to be an escalation in the amount of fireworks, in the period of time they were used as well as the noise and height they reached.

“I’d like to have a discussion about that,” Furlow said.

He suggested a campaign “to notice the citizens so they could be aware of what is appropriate and what is not.”

Mayor Paul Aziz said a future council discussion would be good.

“When it comes around I think the same thing about that,” Aziz said. “Especially last year when we had the drought. It was really really dry.”

Aziz mentioned groups that use fireworks booths as fund-raisers.

“Those fireworks, for the most part, are pretty safe, as far as fire can be,” Aziz said.

The problem was with illegal fireworks, he said.

“They can only sell what’s permitted within the state of Oregon,” said Police Chief Frank Stevenson.

Aziz said he didn’t think there was a problem with the vendors.

Stevenson agreed.

“You can go an hour out to Washington and buy all kinds of illegal fireworks,” Stevenson said. “The Fire Department does go out and do a campaign. I think it’s like a week or two before the Fourth of July.”

LPD responds to calls about fireworks, but it is extremely difficult to figure out where the fireworks are coming from, Stevenson said.

“We do get inundated with a lot of calls on the Fourth of July and after,” he said. “That couple of weeks there is a busy time.”

Furlow asked if the police issued any citations this year.

“I don’t know if we’ve had any citations issued,” Stevenson said. “When I come in on the fifth, we usually have at least three or four buckets full of seized fireworks that we destroy, so it’s definitely an issue. It’s definitely a pain, not only for the Police Department but the fire department as well.”

Aziz said the big thing is that enforcement is difficult.

Stevenson agreed, adding that it is almost impossible to catch someone doing illegal fireworks.

“It seems to be growing in intensity over the years,” Furlow said. “It’s kind of like a frog boiling in water when the heat goes up.”

Furlow noticed it this year because family from Alaska was visiting and commented.

“They were just aghast at what was happening in the neighborhood,” Furlow said “It just made me more aware of a potential problem. It’s got to be a safety hazard too.”

Aziz said he would talk to Marks about adding the issue to a future agenda.

Stevenson said he would discuss it with the fire district.

“There is a belief that even if they are caught, the worst is that (the fireworks are) going to get confiscated,” said Tre Kennedy, city attorney.

Kennedy said a direction from the council and a campaign about the potential fines might help.

“Just the fear of having your illegal fireworks confiscated is probably not enough to keep people from (setting them off),” Kennedy said. “We think about the Fourth of July, but it’s also at New Year. When I was not as responsible as I am now, I know I always saved a few for New Year.”

Councilorís concerns spark discussion about fireworks