Fireworks and Fires | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Fireworks and Fires 

On July 4, Pilot Butte didn’t burn; calls were down

The 2019 4th of July was a tame one by recent standards. No one lit Pilot Butte on fire, no brush fires were reported and, according to the Bend Fire Department, calls were down in comparison to years past.

However, even with the somewhat calm year, two homes sustained damage as the result of the improper disposal of fireworks, according to Bend Fire.

click to enlarge This house was started by improper disposal of legal fireworks and is considered a total loss, according to Bend Fire. - BEND FIRE DEPARTMENT
  • Bend Fire Department
  • This house was started by improper disposal of legal fireworks and is considered a total loss, according to Bend Fire.

The fire in one home started in a carport, where legal fireworks were placed into a cardboard box and then placed in the carport, information from Bend Fire’s Emergency Incident News Release stated. The home is considered a complete loss, but all five family members escaped the home without injury.

Just before midnight on July 4, Bend Fire responded to a fully involved home in Northwest Bend. The cause of the fire was also determined to be improperly disposed legal fireworks that were placed into a trashcan in the garage without being soaked in water, according to a Bend Fire release. No injuries were reported, but the home was damaged to the point that fire crews could not enter it safely while fighting the blaze.

“The two house fires were very sad and this will make us redouble our efforts to bring the message to the community of the importance of proper disposal,” Dave Howe, Bend Fire Department’s battalion chief of administration and public information officer wrote in an email to the Source. “People can make sure this doesn’t happen to them by submerging fireworks debris in a bucket of water for 24 hours before putting in the trash.”

This year a task force comprised of Bend Fire and the City of Bend Police Department teamed up to better patrol illegal fireworks on June 27 and 28, and July 3 to 5. Howe said that calls were down this year—53 versus 60-plus in previous years—and that the task force had several good effects.

“We were able to demonstrate to the community that we are taking illegal fireworks seriously and that we are happy and effective working together,” Howe said. “We were able to give the community a tool to help us, namely, the non-emergency phone number, and we encouraged people to call if they observed illegal fireworks.”

Howe said the task force developed some good data for where illegal firework usage occurs, so that in the following years, they may be more effective at stopping people from using illegal fireworks.

In years past, the police and fire departments generally didn’t cite people with illegal fireworks, but gave warnings. This year, Howe said they confiscated some fireworks and made one citation.

“Overall we feel that it was a successful, if an auspicious start to a program, and yes, we will definitely use the task force concept again, possibly augmented,” Howe said.

Fire Season Officially in Effect

On July 1, the Oregon Department of Forestry officially declared fire season in effect on all ODF protected lands. This means the end of unregulated outdoor debris burning—a leading cause of wildfire, according to ODF. Other restrictions, such as the use of fireworks, tracer ammunition and exploding targets are illegal within ODF protection boundaries, as well as other state and federal lands, ODF wrote in a press release.

Campfires, the mowing of dry, cured grass, cutting and welding, power saw use and other spark-emitting activities are regulated at the local level, according to the release.

ODF said that while permits to burn may be issued in some areas, debris burning is generally not allowed during the summer due to increased wildfire risk.

Howe said the fire season declaration is a heads up for everyone to be aware of conditions and to be prepared for a higher potential for fires that may be more resistant to control.

“This declaration also sends the message that all fire agencies are prepared for more fire activity,” Howe said. “The Central Oregon fire and land management agencies are among the nation’s best at interagency cooperation, and now that we have a fully integrated radio system, our ability to communicate across agency boundaries has been enhanced.”
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