Eugene City Councilor Ward 8

Eugene officials consider citywide ban on fireworks

19 July 2022

 Randy Groves

NOTE from Councilor Groves: While I support professional fireworks displays, it is time to ban the personal discharge of fireworks within the Eugene City Limits. The discharge of fireworks is disturbing for many people, especially those suffering PTSD, as well as domestic animals and wildlife. What are currently classified as "illegal fireworks," air borne explosive projectiles as well as those that produce commercial grade explosive force are by far the most dangerous but even legal fireworks can cause injury and start fires. As a former firefighter I've seen both. For example, a sparkler which is currently classified as being legal in Oregon, burns at temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees, and both legal and illegal fireworks have caused fires in our community. In fact this year in Eugene we experienced a house fire started by the improper disposal of spent legal fireworks and two brush fires attributed to illegal fireworks.

The city council has directed the City Manager to return with a draft ordinance. A public hearing on this issue will also be scheduled before a final decision is voted on by council.

Eugene officials consider citywide ban on fireworks

Megan Banta

Eugene Register-Guard USA TODAY NETWORK

Fire danger, climate change and the well-being of people and animals are leading Eugene officials to consider a total ban on fireworks within city limits.

City Council voted 7-1 last week to direct staff to prepare an ordinance prohibiting the use and sale of all consumer fireworks citywide and schedule a public hearing on the measure in the fall.

The move, if approved after community input, would extend a two-year ban on fireworks – even legal ones like fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinner and wheels – in the areas south of 1
8th Avenue and east of Agate Street. The ban would not apply to professional fireworks shows.

“I adore fireworks, and I think it’s time to prohibit the sale and use within the city,” Councilor Emily Semple said. “They don’t stay just in those two days. They’re all over the place. They’re very loud where I live, and I can imagine that it could be very frightening.”

The county already bans the manufacture, sale and use of fireworks in areas outside city limits when the state forester declares fire season for the forestry districts that cover portions of Lane County.

That’s happened this year already, with the forester declaring all OregonDepartment of Forestry districts are in fire season as of July 11.

Eugene officials passed a partial ban in the South Hills area, which a 2014 analysis identified as a “very high” fire hazard area, in June 2021.

As that ordinance is set to expire at the end of the year, the city has been trying to figure out what to do going into 2023, said Interim Eugene-Springfield Fire Chief Scott Cockrum.

“There are still a lot of illegal fireworks,” he said, noting he especially saw sales on the north and west sides of the city while driving around.

Around July 4, there likely were three.

fires caused by fireworks, Cockrum told officials. One was a structure fire from a legal, but improperly disposed of, firework, he said, and two others were brush fires. One of the brush fires was caused by an illegal firework, he added.

While the smaller, legal fireworks are less dangerous because they don’t fly, Cockrum said, they can still be dangerous because people throw them, don’t dispose of them properly or otherwise don’t use them correctly.

Fireworks, whether legal or illegal, are an “enormous” use of police and fire resources, he said, and a full ban would be in the best interest of the city. Cockrum has worked in other cities that have implemented a full ban and said there’s a “night and day difference.”

Council president Claire Syrett said she thinks it’s past time to prohibit the sale and use of all fireworks citywide.

She added officials need to move quickly to give nonprofit organizations that sell fireworks as a fundraiser and businesses that sell them “the certainty of this so they’re not planning for something that they then don’t get todo.”

Councilor Randy Groves, a former fire chief, said a complete ban also eliminates confusion over whether a firework is legal or illegal when people are calling for police or fire services.

He agreed with councilors who suggested that the city help put on a community display.

“We’re not trying to regulate fun,” he said. “We’re trying to regulate safety.”

Councilor Mike Clark expressed doubt that a ban will make a difference in the city’s enforcement actions and said most of the danger is coming from illegal fireworks that are banned at a state level.

“I don’t imagine I understand yet what will actually change by us doing this other than that we’ll feel good, I guess,” Clark said.

What’s next?

City staff will draft an ordinance to bring back to council, and officials will hold a public hearing in the fall. That chance for feedback hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at mbanta@registerguard.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.

FIREWORKS from page A1 to A6

Fireworks for sale at the Factory Fireworks Outlet run by Crossfire Ministries on Olympic Street in Springfield. CHRIS PIETSCH/THE REGISTER-GUARD

Randy Groves