Because of the extreme drought conditions this summer, fire officials in the western United States will be strictly enforcing fireworks laws.
In the aftermath of Independence Day celebrations, the number of fires caused by fireworks over the holiday remains to be seen. Unfortunately, wildfires caused by fireworks are not limited to the Fourth of July.
Last year, in Washington state alone, a total of 240 wildfires were attributed to fireworks. In June of this year, fire investigators confirmed that fireworks sparked a blaze that charred more than 2,600 acres and destroyed at least one home and threatened hundreds of others in the Boise, Idaho, area.
In tinder-dry California, many (if not most) communities already ban fireworks, even so-called “safe and sane” fireworks (that is, non-aerial and non-explosive fireworks, such as sparklers). A majority of the cities within Los Angeles County, including Los Angeles proper, do not allow fireworks of any kind. Violators risk facing a $1,000 fine.
This fireworks ban also extends to the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument, where all fireworks, including sparklers and other so-called safe and sane fireworks, are prohibited at all times.
In addition, California has a “zero tolerance” for the sale and use of illegal fireworks, according to CalFire. Illegal fireworks include “sky rockets, bottle rockets, roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers and other types that explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner.”
It is illegal to sell, transport, or use fireworks that do not carry the “Safe and Sane” seal, as well as possess or use any fireworks in a community where they are not permitted. If convicted, a violator could be fined up to $50,000 and spend up to a year in jail.
“This could be the most volatile fire season in over 100 years.”- LA County Fire Chief Darrell Osby
California’s five years of record drought is already responsible for the loss of 66 million trees, according to the U.S. Forest Service, making much of the state a tinderbox. Which is why the fireworks laws will be strictly enforced this year. According to LA County Fire Chief Darrell Osby, “This could be the most volatile fire season in over 100 years.” (See related article, “California Drought Breeding More Wildfires.“)
One of the more recent wildfires, dubbed the Deer Fire, broke out early in July, and was responsible for burning about 2,000 acres of grassland.
Several Kern County mountain communities were evacuated for about two days, until about 50% of the fire had been contained.
Even this relatively small wildfire required 20 firefighting crews 145 engines, 10 bulldozers, seven water tenders and 10 helicopters.
California’s continued drought and a bark beetle infestation has desiccated trees in the area, providing fuel for the fire already aided by high temperatures and winds, according to Kern County Fire Department spokesman Phil Neufeld.
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