Fourth of July celebrations will look and sound a little different this year in Portland, and every year going forward.

Portland leaders agreed on Wednesday to ban the sale and use of personal fireworks as climate change increases the risk of a deadly fire.

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The ordinance passed 4-0. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was giving a press conference at the time about his latest emergency order regarding homelessness and was not in attendance.

Illegal fireworks are ones that explode, fly in the air, or eject balls of fire. Legal fireworks shouldn’t travel more than six feet across the ground.

Portland leaders agreed on Wednesday to ban the sale and use of personal fireworks as climate change increases the risk of a deadly fire.

Cheyenne Thorpe / OPB

Fireworks sales had previously been allowed for a two-week period from June 23 through July 6. Under the new ordinance, people will no longer be able to buy or use personal fireworks at any time in Portland.

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In a presentation last week, Fire Chief Sara Boone said fireworks greatly increase the risk of a major disaster, particularly as climate change increases periods of extreme heat and drought becomes more common. In 2017, she said, a single firework scorched over 48,000 acres of forest and the Columbia River Gorge; the Eagle Creek Fire was the largest wildfire in Multnomah County’s history. On July 4, 2020, fireworks caused 18 fires in Portland, according to the ordinance.

That number dropped dramatically in 2021 after the mayor signed an emergency declaration temporarily banning the sale of fireworks due to a severe drought.

“Even on a temporary basis, the results were dramatic. We saw a reduction by 66% of fire calls related to fireworks,” Fire Marshal Kari Schimel told City Council members last week. “This is the lowest number of fire calls related to fireworks that we have seen in the last 20 years.”

Commissioners said Wednesday they believed the climate crisis meant the risk of a devastating fire would not be diminishing over the coming decades.

“There is no question that this ban will save lives,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the fire bureau and introduced the ordinance. “We know that we are in a climate disaster, and we know that these severe weather temperatures, wildfires are not going to end anytime soon. As a community committed to climate mitigation, we must change behavior.”

Commissioner Carmen Rubio said she realized this could be a “difficult transition” for some families, including her own, who counted on fireworks as part of their celebrations. But she believed the council had no other option.

Fire bureau spokesperson Terry Foster said the fireworks ban will be enforced through citations. Firework users can be fined $500 if it’s their first violation. First-time sellers can be fined $2,500.

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