As fireworks tents start popping up across Jackson County, area fire officials are urging the public to follow the law and use caution when lighting the fuses.
Following a recent drought declaration and a jump to "high" on the fire danger level in Jackson and Josephine counties, taking that extra care is even more urgent, they say.
"We are seeing fire behavior this year that's about two weeks to a month accelerated," says Mark Northrop, deputy fire marshal for Jackson County Fire District No. 3. "Normally, July 1, we're in high fire danger anyway. This year we went in high fire danger two weeks before that."
Officials pointed to a May wildfire near Pompadour Drive in Ashland that torched 13 acres of grassland as an example of why extra caution is needed.
"They need to be done in a safe, fire-free area, meaning no flammable vegetation," said Darin Welburn, division chief for Jackson County Fire District No. 5. "The ignitions from fireworks ... definitely have a higher potential this year."
Users should have a bucket of water nearby, where used fireworks should be placed. They should also have a hose. Children playing with sparklers should wear closed-toe shoes, and fireworks should be set off with a long-stemmed barbecue lighter.
Under Oregon law, any fireworks that explode or fly through the air are illegal. Legal ones can be set off in unincorporated areas of the county, and in the city limits of Central Point, Eagle Point, Phoenix and Talent, but they are outlawed in Ashland, on federal or state forestlands and on the Bear Creek Greenway.
Medford allows fireworks on a restricted basis, meaning no use on public-school grounds or on the town's hillsides — anywhere east of Foothill Boulevard or north of Cherry Lane.
In 2013, Medford police handed out 32 citations for illegal fireworks use during the month of July, with a majority handed out on Independence Day. A fireworks ticket typically runs about $250.
Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said he anticipates a similar crackdown this year.
"This year's going to be no different," Budreau said. "We plan on taking it seriously."
— Ryan Pfeil