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Despite wildfire risk, firework sales still persist throughout Southern Oregon

Fireworks in the sky

Firework restrictions throughout Southern Oregon have created a patchwork of areas where they can be set off this year. Despite the risk, fireworks remain a part of this year's Fourth of July celebrations.

If you’ve driven into Ashland this month, you’ve likely seen the large fireworks stand just north of town. But fireworks have been banned in nearby Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, as well as nearly 2 million acres of forest lands in southwest Oregon protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry because of wildfire risk.

The fireworks stand between Ashland and Talent is allowed because Jackson County still permits them being sold county-wide. Counties have decided against banning fireworks because enforcement of such bans is nearly impossible, according to John Patterson, a Jackson County Fire Marshall in Fire District 3.

“What’s better or what’s worse: having a total ban that you know there’s no way you can enforce it, or not have a ban and enforce the things that make it unsafe?” Patterson says.

Jackson County Commissioner Dave Dotterrer says he still hears from residents who want to celebrate Independence Day the traditional way.

“County commissioners want to make sure that we respect the opinions of all Jackson County citizens," he says.

Dotterrer says a ban would be impractical. Without a similar bans in nearby counties, folks could easily cross the border to get fireworks.

Patterson says making sure people know they’re responsible for damages from the misuse of fireworks is a great way to ensure they’re used safely.

The teenager who started the 2017 Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge was fined almost $37 million.

The Jackson County Expo is hosting a professional fireworks show on the evening of July 4. Families will also be able to put on their own shows safely in the expo parking lot, with firefighters supervising the event.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.