A map showing areas protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Map courtesy ODF
Can you legally light fireworks if you live west or north of the city of Banks this year? It depends on where you live.
While Forest Grove and other cities have banned fireworks this year to varying degrees in an attempt to avert a potential wildfire catastrophe, those in unincorporated Washington County have only the urging of firefighters and Washington County commissioners, who say it’s a bad idea.
“With record-breaking weather and drought conditions, Banks Fire District #13 is joining our neighboring departments in urging people to NOT USE personal fireworks in their celebrations this year,” Banks Fire District spokesperson Scott Adams said in a statement.
“A Rural Fire Protection District, such as Banks Fire, is specifically prohibited by State Law from banning fireworks (See ORS 480.160(4)(c)). Instead we suggest you consider attending a professional show or watching an event on television,” he said.
The annual Banks fireworks show, sponsored by the city, the speedway, and local businesses at Sunset Speedway is still on, the city said.
The show is expected to begin around 10 p.m. following the final race of the night.
"Banks Fire will have a crew and apparatus standing by as usual when the fireworks are set off," said Banks Fire District spokesperson Mitch Ward in a message to the Banks Post.
But for many rural residents in the communities outside of Banks, the choice is made for them, much like it is during many summers when the Oregon Department of Forestry deems the area to officially be in fire season.
If you live within ODF-protected lands, you can’t legally light a firework while the Oregon Department of Forestry deems the Northwest Oregon Fire Protection District to be in fire season.
To find out if your home is within ODF-protected lands, visit this online map from the ODF and click the location you live.
You’ll know you’re in ODF-protected lands if the map says what forestry district you’re in. That’s Forest Grove District for many of our readers. Also noted will be the current fire danger level, and information on what’s prohibited.
The district border follows part of the Highway 26 corridor and doesn’t conveniently follow community bounds.
All of the historic bounds of Timber and most of the surrounding areas are in ODF-protected lands, as are the Tophill and Buxton areas, though portions of Buxton are not. Some parts of Manning are in ODF-protected lands, and some are out. Portions of Mountaindale closer to Highway 26 are out, while further north are firmly in ODF-protected lands.
For those who can legally light fireworks, or those who will light them illegally regardless of what firefighters and elected officials say is a risky move, follow some simple safety guidelines.
“General safety tips for personal use of fireworks are to always use fireworks outside with a bucket of water or hose nearby. Keep fireworks away from dry leaves and other materials that can easily catch on fire. Light one firework at a time. Keep the firework you're lighting well away from unlit fireworks,” said Banks Fire District spokesperson Mitch Ward in a message to the Banks Post.
Ward also pointed readers of this newspaper to an online resource for more firework safety tips.