The future of fireworks

Vancouver USA banned the sale of personal fireworks. Should Oregon cities do the same?

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UPDATE: A new citizen-led petiton aims to institute stronger enforcement of Portland firework laws. The petition only has 37 supporters at the moment, but given local reaction to Vancouver’s ban, we’re sure it will pick up steam. Check out the petition here.

Like many others, I spent the Fourth of July lighting fireworks on a dead end street, twirling sparklers and throwing poppers toward nearby friendly feet. 

But while trying not to burn my fingers and get hit by passing cars, I found it difficult to ignore the larger problems associated with an increasingly noisy and dangerous pastime.

More than 12,000 are injured each year playing with fireworks. This year, there were more than 1,800 illegal firework reports in Portland on the Fourth. That’s a call increase of more than 20%. 

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that our neighbor across the pond, Vancouver, USA, decided personal fireworks are too dangerous to sell, and instituted a ban starting 2017.

Our poll this week revolved around fireworks. We asked readers: Should Oregon cities follow suit and ban personal fireworks? Nearly 70% of readers who voted said yes.FullSizeRender

Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem Anne McEnerny-Ogle tells Oregon Business the decision last October was difficult —but necessary. 

“We’re not the same city of 20 years ago. The fireworks are not the same either.” she says. “We need to consider safety and livability issues in our neighborhoods.”

Vancouver Councilor Bart Hansen says increased noise and fire hazards played a role in the decision.

“I appreciate the proponents of fireworks wanting to maintain the tradition, but aside from the reasons already mentioned the city has been spending up to $40,000 annually in overtime for our first responders,” he said.

While McEnerny-Ogle didn’t say Portland should follow suit, she she is satisfied with Vancouver’s decision.

“When the Fire Chief announced that his department would only respond to Priority 1 medical calls, because of the numerous fires, I knew we made the right choice,” she says.

“It’ll take a few years for everything to calm down and for the various organizations to find replacement fundraisers. And, it’ll be a matter of enforcing the ban and officers won’t have to determine if a firework is legal or not.”

Attempts to contact Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman and the Portland Fire Department were unsuccessful.