Jeff Pelline: A safe, sane idea on fireworks |

Jeff Pelline: A safe, sane idea on fireworks

I was cruising down the mountain from Lake Tahoe early Monday morning, thinking about the awful fire that had just destroyed hundreds of homes and blanketed the area with thick smoke. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it up there.

As I exited the highway at Burger Basin (a.k.a. Glenbrook Basin), I noticed a big fireworks stand had been erected in the parking lot – and the disconnect seemed striking. (Dixie Redfearn had the same thought; see her “Reader’s Corner” column on A2).

I wondered if it’s about time we realized that we live in – well, a forest – and ban fireworks except at organized events.

I’ve heard the idea has been met with resistance in the past because some money from the fireworks sales goes to charity.

Many families also enjoy the tradition of setting off fireworks in the driveway. They also point out that the “safe and sane” variety are only legal within the city limits of Nevada City and certain areas of Grass Valley. Fireworks are illegal on county land.

I hate to be a party pooper, but I think the risks of fire danger outweigh the rewards of celebration. Enforcing the illegal use of fireworks outside of city limits is a big, expensive task.

I also think we’re sending a mixed message: We need to worry a lot more about fire danger, but it’s still OK to buy fireworks.

We’re hardly breaking new territory here. I remember being disappointed as a child 30 years ago when fireworks were banned in our city. No more Red Devil sparklers, “Roman Candles” or “snakes” to light on the Fourth of July. (My dad disliked the snakes anyway because they stained the driveway).

Instead, we attended a community fireworks display in our park. We brought blankets, a picnic dinner (my mom’s potato salad was awesome – with a hint of dill) and watched the fireworks with our neighbors. It was a great event. We already have a big fireworks event at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Now is the time to rethink our cities’ policies on fireworks. We have August-like fire conditions around here already.

In addition, as our stories on Page A1 point out, it’s only a matter of time before a big fire strikes our area again, and we need to be a lot more prepared than we are now. (As Dave Moller and Laura Brown point out, an estimated one-half of our communities do not have a fire evacuation plan completed, including Banner Mountain. Yikes.)

I know fireworks are hardly the sole cause of fires: you’ve got cigarettes, campfires, even sparks from lawnmowers. But at the risk of somebody dropping an M-80 down our toilet (a decidedly illegal childhood prank), let’s set an example for fire prevention and take a firmer stand on fireworks.


Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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