Photo Credit: Wildfire professionals are cautioning the public to use consumer fireworks with care over the holiday weekend. Even if legal, fireworks increase the potential for wildfire ignitions due to hot and dry conditions. Photo by PBS.org
With the Fourth of July weekend nearly upon us, there is a flurry of outreach to increase public awareness about fireworks’ potential to start wildfires. The reason for this heightened awareness is critical: a 2013 report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that, in a typical year, fireworks on Independence Day account for two out of five of all reported fires, more than any other cause of fire. According to NFPA, in 2011, an estimated 17,800 reported fires were started by fireworks. These fires resulted in an estimated 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.
Agencies from across the country have taken steps to promote public awareness to reduce the likelihood of wildland ignitions and personal injuries. Here is a sampling of their prevention and safety that may be useful in your own public outreach efforts:
- CALFIRE is urging California residents and visitors to be aware of this year’s drought conditions and the heightened risk of wildfire. The public should check to ensure where consumer fireworks can be legally used; any firing site should have a bucket of water nearby, and adequate clearance from flammable materials including dry grass and brush.
- Colorado Emergency Management is recommending to the public to attend professional fireworks displays rather than using personal fireworks. Professional displays are a safe way for the public to enjoy fireworks because they are carefully monitored and permitted, and include support from local fire departments. Colorado also urges residents to check any local fire restrictions and ensure that any type of consumer fireworks used comply with state laws.
- The City of Ashland, Oregon is reminding its citizens that the use of retail fireworks are prohibited throughout the year within city limits. Novelty items (e.g., smoke bombs, snakes, party poppers) are allowed, but the city urges that the public follow safety precautions if using these unclassified items. Tips include never lighting these items in forested areas, never altering or throwing these items, and placing them in a bucket of water after use.
- The City of Raleigh, North Carolina is also reminding its citizens about the illegal use of fireworks in the state of North Carolina, including ground spinners, firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars. The North Carolina Forest Service is urging the public to take precautions with campfires and grills, such as proper disposal of ashes in outside metal containers or burying them in mineral soil. Campfires and grills should never be left unattended and should never be started with gasoline.
- Among other recommendations, Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging anyone staying closer to home to “Know Your Role” when it comes to preparing for wildfire by visit fireadapted.org to learn about landscaping, construction, community wildfire planning, and preparedness programs such as Firewise and Ready, Set, Go!
- For more general information on wildfire safety and prevention, the “One Less
Spark, One Less Wildfire” awareness campaign offers free resources for agencies to use in their outreach efforts. Started by the USDA Forest Service and other land management agencies in California in 2012, the campaign has since expanded to states throughout the southwest, including Arizona and New Mexico. This campaign offers a wildfire toolkit – complete with public service announcements, graphics, and educational materials to prevent human-caused wildfires. Topics cover proper usage of outdoor equipment, debris burning, campfire safety, and vehicle maintenance.
This is just a small sampling of the many tips and resources that agencies are sharing with the public this holiday weekend. If you haven’t posted prevention tips yet, there’s still time to share information to help your community have an enjoyable and safe Fourth of July.
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