Fourth of July fun: Keep it safe

By John L. Braese
and Pat Caldwell
The Enterprise
VALE – Ontario Fire Chief Terry Leighton’s advice to residents this Fourth of July holiday is simple: Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals.
Nyssa City Manager Jim Maret agreed.
“My recommendation is if you want to watch fireworks, good ones, go to where they are going to set them off professionally,” said Maret.
A good – and only local – place to watch professional fireworks is the Malheur County Fairgrounds. A fireworks celebration, sponsored by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, will begin at 10:30 p.m. July 4.
Personal fireworks will be available at stands at Albertsons, Bi-Mart, Red Apple, Walmart, and the Rock Church, all in Ontario, and at New Hope Assembly of God in Vale.
Nyssa will adopt a no-tolerance policy toward illegal fireworks within city limits, Maret said.
Oregon law excludes possession and use of any firework that flies into the air, explodes or travels more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground without a permit from the state fire marshal.
That means fireworks such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers are illegal.
Maret said individuals caught with illegal fireworks in Nyssa could face a $1,000 fine.
“Last year we wrote nine citations in one day,” said Maret.
Maret said Nyssa police will be out in full force on the nation’s birthday searching for illegal fireworks.
“We take a pretty aggressive stance because we have to protect property and people,” said Maret.
Leighton’s crew will not be out looking for violations but he said he will deploy several trucks in the community in case fireworks ignite a blaze.
The fine in Ontario for illegal fireworks isn’t as steep as Nyssa but it is still costly, Leighton said.
“They can be fined up to $500 per violation. They can also be charged with paying for the damage and fire-fighting costs,” said Leighton.
Leighton said safety precautions apply when using fireworks.
For example, he said, residents should ensure they light the pyrotechnics away from buildings and vehicles.
Also, he said, residents should have a hose or a bucket of water nearby.
“And if a firework does not go off, put it into the bucket of water,” said Leighton.
Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe also emphasized safety for the Fourth of July.
However, Wolfe said, safety is just one piece of the Fourth of July celebration.
“It is all about being responsible in your activities. That means if you are on a waterway, using flotation devices, watch out for other recreationists. Then, of course, you need to be responsible in your alcohol consumption,” said Wolfe.
“Just be respectful of your neighbors,” said Wolfe.
In Vale, fire chief Jess Tolman said his main concern is high, and dry, grasses.
“We want to have a safe and quiet fourth,” Tolman said.