For many of us things have changed this year, but what hasn’t changed is our desire to prevent fires. With the Fourth of July weekend just around the corner, the desire to buy and light fireworks is growing. Inappropriate use of fireworks, combined with dry vegetation and hot weather, substantially increases our local potential for unwanted fires. Firefighters in eastern Idaho are urging Idaho residents to recreate responsibly this summer and only use fireworks legally and wisely.
Fire officials are concerned that with the cancellation of many local firework displays, people may choose to celebrate at home or on public lands. “It’s highly probable with the number of firework sales occurring in the area, that many individuals are choosing to have personal celebrations,” said Caribou-Targhee National Forest Fire Management Officer Mike Johnston. “More fireworks equal the potential for more fire activity.” While safe and sane fireworks are allowed in some jurisdictions everyone needs to follow safety precautions. As a reminder, fireworks are illegal on public lands.
Every summer, improper use of fireworks results in multiple wildland and structure fires. In 2018, two homes in Pocatello were significantly damaged in a matter of minutes from illegal fireworks. The 2017 Rapid Creek and Henry’s Creek fires burned nearly 53,000 acres because of illegal fireworks. Even though fireworks are illegal on public lands, every year, Idaho Falls District BLM law enforcement seize hundreds of illegal fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday.
As the Fourth of July nears and the weather turns hotter and drier, please use “safe and sane” fireworks in gravel or asphalt areas away from vegetation and buildings. Safe and sane fireworks or “non-aerial common fireworks” remain near the ground and do not travel outside a 20-foot diameter. Safe and sane fireworks include cone fountains, sparklers, wheels and whistles.
Other fireworks, typically aerial ones, are illegal to shoot off in Idaho. Aerial fireworks present a huge risk for causing wildfires. While these kinds of fireworks may be purchased legally, Idaho law makes their use illegal. Illegal-use fireworks include bottle rockets, sky rockets, roman candles, firecrackers, missiles, parachutes, sky flyers, display shells and aerial items.
Always follow applicable fireworks regulations, including:
· Buying fireworks during legal times of the year. Fireworks are only authorized for use during specific times of the year. Check local ordinances for dates you can use fireworks.
· Keeping fireworks off your public lands. Possessing and/or using fireworks on federal public lands (Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service) is strictly prohibited.
· Using fireworks safely and legally. Anyone misusing fireworks can be held liable for damages. Damages often include the costs of putting out the fire.
Certain areas, like Johnny Creek in the Pocatello area, prohibit fireworks due to the high risk of wildfire. Never light fireworks on a windy day and fully extinguish them with water before disposing of debris.
For more information, contact your local fire department.
Regulations can be read in entirety at Idaho Statutes Title 39 Chapter 26, NFPA 1123, and Forest Service 36 CFR Title 261.