BEND, Ore. - The city of Bend plans to pair police officers and fire inspectors for an Illegal Fireworks Task Force to respond exclusively to illegal fireworks calls on several nights in late June and early July. The task force will patrol areas where data have shown a higher use of illegal fireworks.
“If you’ve had a lot of fireworks in your neighborhood in the past, you can expect to see some patrols this year,” said Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Howe.
The task force, scheduled for the nights of June 27 and 28 and July 3, 5 and 6, will focus on problematic areas identified by data, but also will respond to calls as they are able.
The 2019-20 Bend City Council Goals prioritized increasing illegal firework enforcement activities as part of a comprehensive wildfire resilience plan.
Last year brought one of the most destructive illegal fireworks incidents in city history, on the slopes of Pilot Butte on July 4, which also prompted evacuation of nearby residents.
Fireworks that explode, fly more than 12 inches in the air or move laterally more than six feet are illegal to possess and use in Oregon. More fireworks information, including details about what are illegal fireworks, can be found here.
Police Lt. Clint Burleigh noted that it’s not the first time police and firefighters have teamed up to target the problem, as joint patrols were tried over a decade ago. But the public outreach is a new aspect, he said, “as we are trying to deter people from even using illegal fireworks. We are using data to help us identify where we need to be and when we need to be there.”
Howe said the previous try was a “pretty futile effort, but I believe we have a higher level of collaboration and a sharper focus now.” The fire department also created some videos this year aimed at urging people not to "light the fuse" on illegal fireworks and noting the potential costly impacts from damage and injuries to fines and possible jail time.
Last year, Howe said, Bend fire crews responded to 14 fireworks-related calls in the first 10 days of July, with a dollar loss of $35,000, not including response costs. Seven were on July 4, “by far our busiest day,” he said.
Those who witness the use of illegal fireworks can call non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911. The city asks that you please not call 911 to report fireworks, unless there is a confirmed fire or injury.
The city also noted that calls to non-emergency dispatch will not always result in emergency response from fire or law enforcement.