The city of Portland and Clark County, Washington, both banned all fireworks Tuesday as the region copes with an unprecedented heatwave.
With temperatures hitting an all-time high this week, Portland’s fire bureau said the city ban would take effect immediately. The bureau did not say when the restrictions would lift, but they will likely remain through the weekend. This means no fireworks allowed for Fourth of July festivities.
“If we don’t take this proactive step now, I fear the consequences could be devastating” Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone said in a written statement. “It is not easy to make a decision like this so close to our national holiday but as Fire Chief I feel I have a higher responsibility to sometimes make unpopular decisions during unprecedented times to protect life, property and the environment.”
But city leaders say they do not have the investigators and officers necessary to enforce the ban in real-time. Unlike other cities with similar bans, the fire bureau asked Portlanders not to call 911 to report fireworks in order to keep the lines open for reports of fires and medical emergencies. The bureau also said that fire investigators will not be patrolling for fireworks use. The sale of fireworks has not been banned.
While fire officials will not be proactively enforcing the ban, bureau spokesperson Rob Garrison emphasized that, as always, firefighters will investigate any fire that they believe was a result of fireworks.
“We’re not actually going to be out enforcing, but if there’s a fire caused by fireworks then we’ll be out to investigate,” Garrison said.
People who light fireworks that cause damage during the ban could be fined $500, $1,000 or $2000, depending on the number of times they’ve been previously cited, Garrison said.
Clark County leaders went further Tuesday, banning both the use and sale of fireworks Tuesday through midnight July 4.
“We recognize that this decision will cause some hardship to some residents’ celebration plans as well as businesses and non-profit organizations that sell fireworks,” County Council Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien said in a statement. “We empathize with all who are affected, but we must follow county codes.”
Portland and Clark County are the latest places in the Pacific Northwest to ban fireworks due to sweltering temperatures and dry conditions. On Monday, Bend banned all fireworks through July 9. The Southwest Washington cities of Battle Ground, Camas and Washougal have issued similar restrictions, as has Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.
This is a developing story. Watch for updates.