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No fireworks on July Fourth

by Merrie Leininger

The East Fork Fire District wants everyone to know they will be held responsible for anything that goes boom or whoosh over the July Fourth weekend.

Chief Jim Reinhardt and Deputy Fire Chief Steve Eisele said Douglas County has had an ordinance prohibiting the possession of fireworks for the last 30 years.

Anyone caught with fireworks anytime of the year will be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.

The law is in place to prevent injuries and wildfires.

Reinhardt said he would like to continue the trend of the last three years in which very few people had to be reminded of the law.

Eisele said officials generally have problems only with people from out-of-state.

“The word has gotten out. There has been a substantial reduction in instances of people setting off fireworks,” he said. “We don’t sell fireworks in Douglas County or adjoining counties, but they end up coming into the county with people on vacation.”

Reinhardt said even the fireworks that are considered “safe and sane,” such as bottle rockets and sparklers, are prohibited.

“I probably shouldn’t admit this, but when I was 9 years old, my dad and I set our neighbor’s wood shake roof on fire with a bottle rocket,” Reinhardt said. “They’re like lit projectiles, especially this time of year when we are as dry as we are.”

Anyone who has fireworks can turn them over to the fire district, Eisele said.

He said fire conditions this weekend are at critical levels.

“It’s going to be 9 percent humidity, which is extremely dry. It doesn’t take much of a flame to start a fire in those conditions,” Reinhardt said.

Eisele said the humidity level refers to how much moisture is in the grass and brush.

“It’s only going to take one (firework) in a greenbelt to cause a serious problem (with such low humidity),” he said.

Anything under 20 percent humidity is considered extremely high fire danger, Reinhardt said.

Because of this, open burning and campfires are also banned. However, campers can have fires in designated areas at Topaz Lake campground. Private property owners can attempt to get a campfire permit if they plan on burning in a safe area, also. Fire permits can be sought at the East Fork Fire District office.

Eisele said volunteer firefighters and Parks and Recreation rangers will be patrolling the Topaz area to ensure no one has fireworks or has a campfire in an unsafe area.

Anyone who does start a wildfire can be held financially responsible.

Reinhardt remembered two young men who caused a fire on Peavine Mountain near Reno about 4 or 5 years ago and were held responsible for $1.5 million in fire suppression and rehabilitation costs.

Reinhardt and Eisele suggested letting the professionals handle the fireworks this year; after all, even they have to be approved by the state and local fire marshals.