Alyssa Sutton

Firework safety

The public is urged to keep firework usage legal and safe during the week of the Fourth of July.

The 2018 Oregon fireworks retail sales period opened last Saturday and runs until July 6.

On the Fourth of July, officials are advising to leave all fireworks at home. Additionally, the use of fireworks is prohibited on all national forestland, state parks and beaches.

“It’s best to leave fireworks to the professionals,” said Kristin Babbs, Keep Oregon Green president. “Support your local community by enjoying fireworks at sponsored events. If you choose to use fireworks at home, make sure they stay on the pavement and always keep a bucket of water nearby for safety and to extinguish spent fireworks.”

According to Oregon law, it is illegal to possess, use or sell any type of firework that flies into the air, explodes or travels more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground without a permit issued by the OSFM. Bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers are illegal without a permit.

Officials may seize illegal fireworks and charge offenders with a class B misdemeanor which could result in a fine of up to $2,500, and could include fees for any damaged property. Parents are liable for firework damage caused by their children.

The OSFM encourages everyone to use the four B’s of safe fireworks use:

Be prepared before lighting fireworks: keep water available by using a garden hose or bucket.

Be safe when lighting fireworks: keep children and pets away from fireworks.

Be responsible after lighting fireworks: never relight a dud. Wait 15 to 20 minutes then soak it in a bucket of water before disposal.

Be aware: use only legal fireworks and use them only in legal places.

–– Oregon State Fire Marshal

The Fourth of July fireworks show won’t be held at Eastern Oregon University’s Community Stadium in La Grande this year, but it will still take place — in Union.

The fireworks show has been held at the stadium for the last three decades, but this summer the site won’t be available because of major excavation work being conducted. A new turf field and outdoor track are being installed, and soon the construction of a multi-use field house will begin.

Bruce Weimer, chairperson of the Union County Fireworks Action Committee, said it is very likely the university’s improved stadium won’t be used for fireworks shows in the future.

“There is a code requirement that you have to be 100 feet (away from buildings and spectators) per one-inch diameter of the shells you shoot,” Weimer said. “We shoot four- to five-inch diameter shells, so we have to be 400 to 500 feet away from any buildings and spectators. We were really at the limit between where we launched and the spectator line (at Eastern).”

Weimer explained the field house will be constructed where the fireworks were usually launched from, and moving in any direction would no longer work because of the code restrictions.

“We looked at Riverside Park, because years ago we (held the fireworks show) there, but now that it’s developed it’s no longer an option,” Weimer said.

He explained the committee examined other options to host the fireworks show in La Grande, including the Union County Fairgrounds.

Weimer said the committee meets within a month after the events of July 4 to plan for the next year.

“We get together and talk about how things went, and we look to see what money we have to carry over for the next year,” he said.

He said in February the committee begins communicating with Western Display Fireworks LLC, from Canby, about what type of fireworks show they would like to display in July.

The fireworks show was contracted for $9,000. Weimer said the display will be the same as previous years, or better.

“We work to have carry-over (finances) because we have to sign a contract well before the actual event,” Weimer said. “When we sign a contract, we also submit a down payment on the show.”

Without an initial location, however, the committee was considering canceling the show altogether this year.

But, in May, Weimer received a call from Union City Councilor Matt Later who suggested putting on the fireworks show in Union.

“After talking with him, we decided to go ahead with it,” Weimer said.

With a location locked down, the first order of business was making sure the funds were in place.

The Union County Board of Commissioners donated $3,045 to the fireworks show out of a fund that is used for events and tourist attractions. The Union City Council donated $1,000, and Weimer said Red Cross Drug Store — the event’s sponsor — donated $2,000.

“Right off the bat we collected about $6,000,” he said. “Our fundraising goal is $12,000. The rest of the funds ($6,000) will have to come from donations.”

He said the committee expects contributions from individuals and businesses who have donated consistently in the past. Other funds will come from raffle ticket sales.

In the Union City Council meeting earlier this month, City Administrator Doug Wiggins said the city will be charged $62 per hour by Union County for the additional law enforcement services it will receive for the fireworks event. This will help pay for the Union County Sheriff’s Office deputies who will assist with crowd and traffic control.

“The university facility was just ideal,” Weimer said. “It was comfortable for spectators to just throw out their blankets and lawn chairs. We’re trying to duplicate that out in Union.”

The fireworks show will be held at Union High School’s athletic complex. The fireworks will be launched from a vacant field near the athletic complex, which was once the site of a lumber mill.

Weimer said there will be concessions available, and Buffalo Peak Golf Course will provide game activities.

“We don’t have a live band this year, since we started (planning) so late, and all the groups we typically use are booked,” Weimer said.

However, there will be a DJ who will begin playing music over the speakers at 8 p.m., he said.

He also said the town of Union is looking forward to the event, planning a city-wide yard sale, and local restaurants will be open.

“We won’t have a fire truck ride, which is popular, but there will be things for (attendees) to do,” Weimer said.

The La Grande fireworks show usually draws between 2,000 to 3,000 people to Community Stadium. While Weimer said Union can certainly handle that number, he’s not sure this year’s show will draw that large of a crowd.

“Change is difficult,” he said. “We couldn’t find something (in La Grande), but as time goes on and the event goes on, hopefully it will grow.”

Weimer encourages people to support the City of Union by attending the fireworks show. The venue may be different, but the show itself will not change.

Union City Councilor Randy Knop said at the meeting a few weeks ago, he supports having the
fireworks show in Union but he is concerned that it will frighten animals, including the many dogs and horses owned by people living near the UHS athletic complex.

“I don’t want people losing animals,” he said.

Knop said he is a also worried about how the loud fireworks will impact seniors and veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In anticipation of frightened animals running away during the fireworks show, the council voted to suspend its ordinance prohibiting animals at large in town for 24 hours before the fireworks show and 48 hours following it. This means nobody will be fined for having an animal at large in town during this time.