Ashland's fireworks ban is citywide

The City Council voted on Tuesday night to ban the use of fireworks throughout the city.

The council action goes beyond Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns' proposal that the city ban fireworks above Siskiyou Boulevard and North Main Street, where homes begin to blend into the forested hills that make up the Ashland Watershed.

"As fire chief, I would love a city-wide ban," Karns told councilors before the vote.

But he said he was prompted to ask for the partial fireworks ban because an effort in years past to get a city-wide ban was not successful.

City Councilors acknowledged that in banning the use of fireworks everywhere in town, they would be depriving many families of a time-honored tradition.

"My kids are going to kill me when I get home," said Councilor Greg Lemhouse before voting for the city-wide ban.

But Lemhouse said the safety of the city has to come before tradition.

Speaking before the council, resident Sally McKirgan voiced similar sentiments.

"We need to teach our children tradition is not so important as saving lives and property," she said.

Councilor Carol Voisin said many lives would be ruined if Ashland experienced a major fire in town.

"I'd hate to see Ashland become an ash land," she said.

Ashland already had a ban on the use of fireworks during the fire season — except from June 23 to July 6, when the state government allows fireworks sales in recognition of the Fourth of July. Fireworks sales are not allowed within Ashland city limits.

Karns said the professional, permitted public fireworks display that the Ashland Chamber of Commerce typically sponsors will not be affected by the fireworks ban. Whether the city can actually enforce the ban on the use of fireworks at all times and in all places in town remains unknown.

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said all police officers work minimum 12-hour shifts on the Fourth of July. Because of the crowds in town and the level of activity, the police department's ability to enforce any single ordinance is limited.

But if residents know that fireworks are illegal in Ashland, it may become less socially acceptable to use fireworks, Holderness said.

"Ultimately this is a cultural change," he said, adding that it may take several years for people to alter their Fourth of July habits.

Ashland Fire & Rescue is planning an education campaign to inform residents about the fireworks ban.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

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