‘Safe and sane’ this year means playing by rules

The New Era

This has been an interesting weather year, so far, but not one that local growers are complaining about.

The hay is high and gardens are two or three weeks ahead of normal progress, thanks to a timely combination of warmer weather and rain.

That warmer spring, though, has contributed to early drying of the brush, which, as we learn in our front-page story about Fire School, may pose increased fire danger this summer.

Independence Day, as we all know, is when we celebrate our freedom as Americans.

Though we could, at this point, launch into a diatribe about how freedom, as we know it, is at risk from a wide variety of threats, we’ve decided not to go there right now, though it is certainly something to contemplate as we consume hot dogs and potato salad and eye that watermelon, in the spirit of the holiday.

Rather, with the Fourth of July upon us, it’s time to talk about being responsible, particularly with fireworks.

For those familiar with “real” fireworks – bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers – July 4 seems a little tame without the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. But the fines for firing off the illegal stuff aren’t tame.

Here are the hard facts: Under Oregon law, officials may seize illegal fireworks, the ones that fly, explode, or travel more than six feet on the ground or 12 inches in the air, and fine offenders up to $500 per violation for possession of illegal fireworks and endangering life and property. Offenders may also be arrested.

Any fireworks causing damage, or misuse of fireworks carries a liability for the offender, who may be required to pay for resulting fire or other damage. Parents are liable for fireworks-caused damage by their children. Costs may include assessed fines as well as the cost of suppressing fireworks-caused fires. That’s something else to think about in dry weather.

We’re not naïve. We know this is part of our “don’t tread on me” culture in Sweet Home. We know that elements of the local population have likely traveled out of state and are fully stocked with the “good” stuff. We know a lot of these folks are otherwise upstanding citizens who just get a kick out of playing hard ball on July 4.

But the tinder is dry and conditions are rapidly getting to the point where they normally are in mid-July or early August. Anyone who’s had a burn pile get away when the moisture’s down knows how fast a big fire can happen. All it takes is a spark.

Even with “safe-and-sane” fireworks, the legal ones, this will be a year to be particularly cautious. Have a bucket of water nearby to douse expended flares. Keep a hose handy. Make sure your fireworks are on surfaces that are not conducive to fingers of flame running across the landscape.

Have a happy Fourth of July. Celebrate freedom, but remember that freedom also requires responsibility.