Other Voices: Fireworks have no place in hot, dry summer climates
In deciding yes or no to keep fireworks, the only relevant issue to consider is public safety.
There are two viewpoints that I think go right to the heart of the matter. The first is that allowing fireworks is actually making the community safer.
This is usually followed by “this sounds counter intuitive,” but the argument implies that banning legal fireworks will cause people to buy illegal fireworks and sneak out in the woods to set them off.
OK, let’s see if this can pass the commonsense test. We have someone with so little respect for both the community and the law that they would have no problem with buying illegal fireworks and then setting them off in the dry woods.
Are we really supposed to believe they would rather stay in town with a Piccolo Pete and a sparkler if it were just legal? Does that actually make any sense?
If they want to do it in the woods they will, regardless of what’s legal or not legal. I would like to see someone prove that making “safe and sane” fireworks illegal is actually the primary cause of people buying and using illegal fireworks out in the woods or anywhere else.
This brings us to the second revelation. This one says that it is safe to use fireworks in Grass Valley because there has never been a fire reported from “safe and sane” fireworks in the past. It’s the “in the past” part that’s the problem. Even if this was true “in the past,” things have changed.
This is the driest June on record and just take a look around at all the fires we have. No one knows how long this latest pattern of hot dry weather is really going to last.
Another unknown is how safe the “safe and sane” fireworks will be in the hotter dryer summers. Of course, to find out all we have to do is let the summer fireworks use continue and play guinea pig again for another few years. If we are lucky, we will again be able to say “in the past” we didn’t start a big fire.
Do you really feel like being a testing laboratory for the fireworks industry?
Before you answer that, consider this. According to the California Fireworks Newswire, as of June 6 only 271 communities in all of California permitted state-approved fireworks. Considering the size of California that is not a big vote of confidence.
Let’s take a look at the upside and downside of taking a roll of the dice to see if “safe and sane” fireworks are still good-to-go in the new toasty summers. If we lose, there will probably be a big fire with significant loss of property and perhaps lives. Things will change forever for a lot of people. The welcome mat will likely be retracted for any nonprofits that sold fireworks and anyone who authorized their continued sale.
On the win-side, the big winner will be fireworks manufacturers. Of course they would win either way because they get money up front and can always find another Grass Valley if need be.
The nonprofits will get their money and everybody else gets to keep their job for another year when we will roll the dice again. It doesn’t look like the good guys are winning much in this crap shoot.
So, why am I singling out fireworks? Actually I’m not.
We are in a situation with a lot of unknowns and not many easy answers. There is a lot of planning and a lot of strategy ahead of us if we are going to be successful in controlling fires in these hotter dryer conditions. One of the first things we must do is control the things we can.
Fireworks are obviously not the only problem, but they are a lot easier to control than a lightning strike. It just takes a vote.
It doesn’t look like there are going to be any magic answers to our fire problems. They may have to be solved a piece at a time. So everything we can cross off the list makes the rest of the job just a little easier.
John Morris lives in Grass Valley.
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