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As the Fourth of July approaches, fire officials want to remind forest visitors that fireworks and exploding targets are illegal in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
“The use of fireworks on national forest lands is a major concern to us,” said Fire Staff Officer Keith Satterfield. “Fireworks of any kind are illegal on all national forests.”
Last year, the use of exploding targets was banned on national forests in Oregon and Washington. Exploding targets are a documented cause of wildfires--high temperatures and often flames are generated when they explode. They have been associated with at least five wildfires on National Forest System lands since 2012, resulting in more than 15,600 acres burned and approximately $30 million in suppression costs.
Forest Service personnel will be on the lookout for the illegal possession or use of fireworks in the national forest. "Our folks have been instructed to confiscate any fireworks they discover," Satterfield said.
There are monetary penalties for fireworks possession on the national forest. Violators can be subject to a citation and fine with a maximum penalty of $5,000 or up to six months in jail. Anyone who starts a wildfire can be held liable for suppression costs. Those costs can be substantial, often running into hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
“We are about a month ahead of normal for fire conditions. Conditions are dryer and more conducive to wildfires than what normally occur in mid-June,” Satterfield said.
“Lower elevation areas have already started to dry out and could easily spread a wildfire ignited by fireworks or exploding targets. Also, the extended forecast for July and August is for drier than normal weather conditions which will cause fire danger to increase,” Satterfield said.
Forest visitors are encouraged to enjoy local fireworks displays and save their fireworks for New Year’s Eve.
“We want people to enjoy the holiday but we also want them to leave their fireworks at home,” he said.