Monday was the first Fourth of July under the permanent fireworks ban in Bend, but it didn’t mean the night went off without a hitch.
“We had about 80 emails that we received from people complaining about fireworks use in their communities. We also had about 20 to 22 calls through to non-emergency or 911,” said Sheila Miller, the Public Information Officer for the Bend Police Department.
It was also the first year Bend PD had an email and phone line specifically for fireworks-related complaints.
Miller said there were no specific areas of Bend that received more fireworks reports than others. However, none of the calls resulted in a police response or citations of any kind.
“Our officers did not issue any fireworks citations, and the reason for that is our officers are being called to pretty intense events throughout the day on the Fourth,” Miller continued. “The Fourth is our busiest day in terms of calls for service. A good example yesterday, there were 300 to 400 teenagers, mostly underage kids, gathered at Pioneer Park and then at Columbia Park, drinking, fighting, a huge issue. Stuff like that really prevents us from responding to fireworks complaints.”
Despite the lack of enforcement, and many posts and comments on social media about hearing illegal fireworks around town, the ban had an impact.
“Our officers did say that since the ban went into effect, we really have seen a drop in the use of fireworks. We really don’t see as much of an issue as we have in years past,” Miller said. “That means that the ban is working. Obviously there is always going to be people who choose not to obey the city ordinance, but definitely there’s a decrease in the use of fireworks in our community.”
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Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler was a strong supporter of the fireworks ban when it went into effect in October 2021.
She said this week, the council email account hasn’t received much feedback about it.
“I think we saw what we saw last year when there was a ban, which is that most people in Bend complied with it and took it seriously,” Kebler said.
“For me, the big reason why I supported it is just the risk of fire in our city. It just didn’t seem worth it any more to risk fires in people’s homes or in our community because of fireworks, and we still have the great show on Pilot Butte for everyone to enjoy.”
The recent rainfall did make a difference in conditions this year.
“In years when it’s 100 degrees and it hasn’t rained in a month, we’re going to see a lot more accidental fires started and stuff like that that ourselves and Bend Fire & Rescue need to respond to,” Miller said.
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Even with the increased precipitation, the risks still exist.
“Council just heard from [Bend Fire] Chief Riley at our last meeting that we’re still in a really high fire risk even though we’ve had the precipitation,” Kebler said. “What happens is that actually causes the undergrowth to grow quickly and then it dries out when it gets hot, and that actually increases the fuels that are in our forests. Even though we’ve had rain, we haven’t had enough to get us out of a drought, to get us out of extreme fire risk, so it’s still really important that we take that risk seriously in Bend.”
Local leaders hope an increase in information and other activities available on the Fourth of July can help the community enjoy a safer holiday for years to come.
“What we want is for people to know that the rule is there and that they’re not supposed to be doing it, and that does seem to cut down on the amount of people participating in it,” Miller said.
“Especially having the parade back this year, I think people really came together around that as a community and felt like that was a fun event to do and maybe not setting off fireworks.”
Kebler said she was unsure whether councilors would reconsider the ban in the future.