This is the sixth year that fireworks have not been permitted in the city of Ashland. For those who are newer to the area, that may come as a surprise, unless you come from a California or Arizona town that doesn’t permit them either.
So, what happened that caused Ashland to stop the use of the personal fireworks? It wasn’t really one event, but more a series of events and illogical concepts. The most significant fireworks incident in Ashland occurred in 2002 when a family lost their home on July 13 due to an errant firework that ignited the bushes and then the home. Despite a tearful presentation to the City Council, fireworks use continued in Ashland.
Over the next several years, there were many incidents involving fireworks, dollars spent in clean up, complaints about the noise and disturbance to pets, and the nagging question of why we let people play with fire at the foot of the watershed in some of the hottest and driest times of the year.
In 2009, Fire Chief John Karns arrived in Ashland just before the holiday. On the Fourth of July after the parade, there was a response to a structure fire just above the university. Upon arrival on scene, firefighters found smoke coming from a gutter. After pulling the gutter down and preventing the fire from spreading, it was found to be a firework that had been lit and thrown up on the roof. While there was no news-making fire that day, the potential for significant loss was great. That is when the question was asked again: Why are we allowing fireworks to be used in a town at the edge of a forest at the most fire-prone time of the year? After presenting a few options to the City Council, the Council decided to ban personal fireworks throughout the city year-round.
While we have experienced compliance from the majority of our citizens, there are still a few who choose not to comply with the fireworks ban. While there are fines associated with the possession and use of fireworks, it seems that it would be worse to live with knowing that a firework one lit caused the loss of a home or an injury.
We at Ashland Fire & Rescue encourage you, your family and guests to help prevent fires by heeding the fireworks ban in the city, and by taking advantage of the fireworks display at 10 p.m. on the Fourth sponsored by the Ashland Chamber. Our website has a lot of information about the Fourth of July celebration here in Ashland. If you would like to help promote the ban on fireworks, we have a full-color printable poster at our website.
On another note, we just launched a new campaign called "Ready Set Go!" We encourage you to commit to being READY throughout the summer. READY means that you have organized the things that you would need to take with you if you should need to evacuate. Find more at www.rvem.org. Have a safe and fun summer!
Margueritte Hickman is a Division Chief/Fire Marshal with Ashland Fire & Rescue and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org