Most fireworks are illegal in Oregon. The ones that aren’t are pretty benign. But as anyone who’s lived through a Fourth of July in Oregon knows, there are plenty of residents who ignore this law outright, buying illegal fireworks in Washington and lighting them at home without fear of repercussion.
This is against the law, and there is a penalty for breaking it:
Under Oregon law, officials may seize illegal fireworks fining offenders up to $1000 per violation including 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.
Here's an outline of what is and isn't legal in Oregon. As you can see, most of the dangerous ones are prohibited.
But the Eagle Creek disaster should have us reexamining our fireworks laws, because they’re not working. An OPB report indicates that a smoke bomb—an unclassified "novelty" item according to the chart above—may have been responsible in part for the blaze. I don't think anyone would disagree that it's imperative to prevent something similar from happening ever again. Still, as with all changes to law, a debate is needed. Since some people fucking love fireworks, it's only fair to weigh their pros and cons. Cons, you go first!
• They damage personal property—in some cases, catastrophically.
• They damage public property—in some cases, catastrophically.
• They create trash; the parties responsible usually do not clean up the remains.
• They terrorize our pets, very literally.
• They blow up the fingers and hands of users, even the most experienced and careful among them.
• They disrupt our neighbors with noise.
• They cause stress and worry, both in the fear of their potential danger and the suddenness of their noise. Our most vulnerable citizens, including children and war veterans, are the ones most susceptible to this stress.
• They’re bad for the environment.
• They smell.
• Their packaging often enforces racial stereotypes.
• They, on occasion, can burn down close to
5,000 10,000 acres of gorgeous and scenic land (so far), cause unimaginable damage to our natural resources, cause unimaginable strain to our public resources, create states of emergency, bring our infrastructure to a skidding halt, make the air unfit to breathe, block traffic, disrupt commerce, potentially ruin the tourism-based economies of our small towns, strand 153 hikers overnight in an incredibly dangerous and traumatic event, decimate sites that bring pride and wonder to the region, threaten our homes, dirty our streets, kill untold thousands (perhaps millions?) of wild animals and insects, encroach upon our vital water supply, and make vast swaths of pristine wilderness uninhabitable for all living things.
• They momentarily distract the most primitive part of our lizard brains with 1 to 2 seconds of sparkly lights and boom sounds. End of list.
Since the “pro” effects can be effectively mimicked—with much less overall damage—with a simple blow to the head from a two-by-four, the choice seems obvious. We must ban fireworks, completely and without exception, in both Oregon and Washington. Possession of any and all fireworks should be a misdemeanor. Use of them, in any circumstance, should be a felony. For those who insist it’s their Jesus-given American right to light up fireworks, perhaps every Fourth of July we can set up Patriot Stations, where interested parties can line up and have a large wooden beam cracked across their skull. Everybody wins!
Ban fireworks now.
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