By editorial board • 

Snuffing fireworks violations requires citizens to sound of

Get much sleep the Monday night of July 4? No, neither did we.

Many of you probably live in McMinnville. And it seems McMinnville has become a sanctuary city for open use of illegal fireworks, not to mention wanton violations of local noise and nuisance ordinances.

The watchword Monday night appeared to be “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” That held even as the acrid haze of burning gunpowder enveloped residential neighborhoods, pyrotechnic showers repeatedly punctured the night sky and shockwaves from M-80 blasts cracked like peals of overhead thunder.

In Carlton, officers in marked patrol cars were out in force all evening, keeping a watchful eye as they made their rounds as conspicuously as possible.

That did not halt all illegal pyrotechnic activity, but held it to vastly more tolerable minimum. And Carlton can field but a fraction of police manpower available to its larger neighbor.

If there were officers out on patrol in McMinnville Monday — and they surely weren’t all given the holiday night off — how could they possibly have missed the orgy of lawbreaking unfolding along major arterials like Fellows and West Second?

They had to drive through the haze, spot the piles of spent fireworks litter, witness the showers of sparks bursting overhead and encounter the large roadside crowds, clearly intent on sending additional missiles skyward. The rest of us certainly did, to the extent we were willing to risk our well-being by venturing out into the mayhem.

Oregon law bans any firework that travels more than six feet vertically or 12 feet horizontally, including bottle rockets and Roman candles. It also bans any firework that explodes, from the tiniest firecracker to its ear-splitting M-80 and cherry bomb granddaddies. 

A growing number of Northwest communities have gone beyond that by banning use of all fireworks, legal or otherwise, within their corporate limits.

The roster includes Portland, Bend, Hood River, The Dalles, Tigard, Tualatin, West Linn, Wilsonville, Gresham, Forest Grove, Milwaukie, Talent, Phoenix and Waldport in Oregon. It covers Vancover, Washougal, White Salmon, Camas, La Center and Ridgefield in Southwest Washington.

Multnomah, Clark, Clackamas and Deschutes counties have also banned all use of fireworks in unincorporated areas under their jurisdiction. And though a blanket ban has not been declared in Yamhill County, Sheriff Tim Svenson said his office would be taking a “zero-tolerance policy” toward fireworks outlawed by the state.

McMinnville has taken no such action or stance. However, it has not only a right, but a sworn duty, to enforce state fireworks laws and local noise and nuisance ordinances.

Fines for fireworks violations top out at $2,500, and there is no limit on liability for propery or injury damages, which could easily run into the millions. That suggests enforcement could serve as an effective deterrent, were we to pursue any.

When the McMinnville Police Department posted its annual July 4 safety reminder on its Facebook page, one local resident responded, “My whole neighborhood is an illegal fireworks show every year. I have never seen ayone get caught yet!”

Most of us would probably second that assessment. But the responsibility does not lie solely at the police department door — not by any means.

Police departments take direction from city managers, mayors and city councilors. They are also guided by the course set by their predecessors and the feedback that course has either generated — or failed to generate — in the community.

If we want police to proactively assist in preserving the public tranquility, that means we have to speak up. We not only have to let the chief know, but also the city manager, mayor, city councilors and other community opinion leaders.

Illegal fireworks foul the air, litter the ground and shatter the peace. They blow off fingers, put out eyes, set roofs on fire and ignite tinder dry woods. And they send pets into spasms of quivering, trembling terror.

Among human victims, the 0-4 age group accounts for the highest percentage of emergency room visits, followed by the 15-19 age group. And it probably comes as no surprise that victims run 2-1 male, as mischief and machismo seem to be motivating factors.

When the region is subject to major drought, unprecedented heat and extreme fire danger, as Oregon has been of late, such incendiary devices are doubly or triply unsafe.

The joy illegal fireworks create for diehard fans is dwarfed by the pain, risk, cost and discomfort they impose on the rest of us. Is mere compliance with state law and city ordinance too much to ask?

All across the country, law enforcement agencies mount special drunk driving blitzes on New Year’s and Super Bowl weekends. Where there is a will, there is a way. 

Comments

BigfootLives

You forget to say 'hey kid, get off my lawn!" I can tell how bad it was by the long list of stories in the NR about the fires, singed hair, litter in the street and amputation's. As much as I'm told recently to have disdain for and loath the constitution, just consider it as a mostly peaceful protest.

sbagwell

Bigfoot: The Constitution establishes a framework for self-governance through legislation enacted by our duly elected representatives in a lawful manner. That includes regulations adopted by our Legislature governing fireworks. What's lacking is not the regulation, but the enforcement. When you thumb your nose as state law, you are not honoring either our state or federal Constitutions. You are thumbing your nose at America's constitional underpinning because our local police have opted to look the other way. And the rest of us suffer as a result, though it appears you care not.
Steve

tagup

My dog thinks a week of late night explosions is too much. :)

Joel R

I can imagine it's a huge nuisance and headache in town. Out in the country it's down right scary due to the fire danger. Last year, if you remember, we had extreme fire conditions on the 4th and the neighbor in the woods behind us was shooting off the huge illegals. I called the non emergency dispatch number twice. Both times the dispatcher acted kind of put out that I would be calling for such a trivial thing. I think it worked though because they stopped after an hour (instead of the usual all night long in years past).
This year it was quiet all night. Hopefully the guy moved away.

Bill B

I don't often agree with NR's editorials, but I'm in total agreement on this one. I do not understand why Mac PD does not enforce these clearly illegal fireworks. Wonder if Chief Scales will respond?

rosebloomer

100% agree except it's not just he 4th, it's they days around it as well plus the New Years holiday. I am very aware as my dog cowers and shakes for days from the concussion explosions overhead. We leave town to avoid it. If you don't care about dogs maybe you 'patriots" who have a right light illegal fireworks might care about real combat vets who it causes issues for? No, probably not.