Finding fireworks

Discount Fireworks Superstore — that big tent of fireworks just outside the city limits northwest of Ashland — is seeing firsthand the results of the new ban on fireworks in the city.

"One couple came in and bought a $70 package, Majestic Madness, the other day," said John Forsythe, manager at the seasonal shop for the past three years. "After they bought it, they asked if the fireworks in there were allowed in Ashland."

Most were not.

The only fireworks allowed in the city are those defined by the state as novelties: wire-core sparklers, smoke bombs, snakes and party poppers.

Walking along the aisles of the store on Wednesday, Ashland Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman picked out some of the items there that are permitted. Most of the items in the smoke section of the store are allowed in Ashland, for example, falling under the smoke bomb category.

Snakes, which expand into long tendrils of ash and give off a steady stream of smoke, are also fine.

A small gun-shaped device that shoots out streamers of paper when the trigger is pulled is a colorful — and legal — replacement for traditional spark-shooting devices.

"What the fireworks do is really the question," Hickman said. "That might not be labeled a party popper, but it does what a party popper does. There is always a lot of differences in packaging."

Things get a little trickier when it comes to sparklers. A few years back, the state of Oregon and fireworks retailers agreed to a voluntary ban of wire-core sparklers based on safety issues not necessarily related to fire danger. The wire left after the sparklers burn out could cause burns and eye injuries, especially for children. As a result, those sparklers are rare here. Wood-core sparklers are more safe in many ways, but are still considered fireworks, and so are illegal in Ashland.

"People are mainly buying metal (wire-core) sparklers," Forsythe said. "We didn't know about the ban in Ashland, so we don't have as many of those as we would like.

"We're getting a lot of people asking 'Is this legal in Ashland?' A lot of people don't like it, but they understand why it's needed," Forsythe said. "The majority of our customers are from California and those people are still buying everything."

Still, the Ashland ban has made the spot less desirable for a fireworks stand, and Forsythe said he would probably not set up in the north Ashland site next year. Other tents around the valley are not expected to move, however.

Even with the less hazardous devices, Hickman advised people to use common-sense fireworks practices: Only set them off in a cleared area; have water handy, including a filled bucket in which to place hot, spent sparklers; and make sure there's adult supervision throughout the activities.

"There's a personal accountability aspect with fireworks," she said. "Tragedy can occur if you don't follow the rules."

Myles Murphy is a writer and editor for the Tidings. Contact him at or 482-3456 ext. 222.

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