Ashland's new fire chief, John Karns, plans to ask the City Council to ban fireworks in the wildland interface and to crack down on use of illegal rockets later this year.
Karns, who assumed the city's top fire position last month and previously served as a deputy fire chief in Beverly Hills, Calif., said he was shocked to find that many people launched illegal fireworks in Ashland on July 4.
"As I was driving around, I was surprised at the frequency of their use," he said on Monday. "We need to curtail that somehow. It really is a safety danger to all."
Illegal fireworks are those that can propel themselves off the ground or that have a horizontal travel distance of more than 12 feet, Karns said. Legal fireworks are allowed in the city for about two weeks each July.
Karns would like to see police and fire officials more strictly enforce the city's bans on illegal fireworks by doling out fines and citations, instead of just confiscating the rockets, as they have done in the past, he said.
"I would suggest that that's not working," he said. "We need to send the message out there that the use of illegal fireworks is going to come with consequences and when we start doing that, hopefully we can get a handle on it."
The fire chief would also like to ban fireworks in Ashland areas that border wild vegetation, on the outskirts of town, he said.
"We don't allow other ignition sources up there in this time of year, so why should we allow fireworks?" he said.
Fire officials would have to study the city's terrain to determine where exactly to draw the fireworks line, he said.
Karns plans to present his thoughts on fireworks to the City Council sometime this year, he said.
But he doesn't plan on asking the council to completely outlaw fireworks, he said. The fire-prone city of Beverly Hills, where Karns worked for 25 years, bans fireworks outright — but the fire chief doesn't think that's necessary in Ashland, he said.
"I don't foresee that," he said. "I appreciate the role that they play in celebrating the holiday."
Still, Karns said he encourages locals to watch the Chamber of Commerce's fireworks next year instead of trying to create their own show and risking starting blazes or getting burned.
"You are going to have certain number of injuries because of the nature of the beast there," he said.
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.