The state of Idaho has a ridiculous law regulating the use of fireworks. It prohibits the use of fireworks that fly more than 20 feet into the air, including bottle rockets and aerial displays, that are used for private purposes. However, they can be sold in the state without any problem. The buyer simply has to promise by signing a form that they will not use them in Idaho.
Yesterday House Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding introduced legislation that would close this loophole, making the sale of the illegal fireworks illegal. However within hours on a vote of 9 to 6 it was shot down by the House State Affairs Committee.
Dennis Doan, Chief of the Boise Fire Department, released a statement on Monday:
I would like to thank Rep Erpelding for his leadership on this issue. It was clear by the actions of the committee today they do not care about firefighter safety, or if people’s homes and lives are being destroyed by illegal fireworks every year. The exorbitant cost to taxpayers and local governments, and the fact that six homes in Ada County were burned down last year, was not enough to influence their decision to print a bill which would allow a full hearing and dialogue about this important issue.
The ability to purchase illegal fireworks apparently trumps the right of residents to protect their home from fires. This summer when someone’s home burns down due to aerial fireworks you can blame the House State Affairs Committee.
The 2,500-acre Table Rock Fire in the Boise foothills last June was caused by illegal fireworks, burned a home, and cost taxpayers $341,000, according to Chief Doan.
The U.S. Geological Survey has determined that fireworks ruined the water.
Between 1998 and 2009 the park Superintendents at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota thought it would be cool to explode tons, yes, tons of fireworks over the top of the memorial around July 4. For those 12 years tens of thousands of dollars, much of it donated, and thousands of person hours were spent on this ridiculous display. Superintendents Dan Wenk and Gerard Butler promoted and encouraged the program that started numerous fires, rained down tons of debris, and now we’re finding out, poisoned the water with chemicals.
The USGS discovered that the ground and surface water at Mount Rushmore is contaminated with percholrate, a component of rocket fuels and explosives. They determined that the chemical came from the fireworks over that 12-year period.
Data from the USGS report showed that a maximum perchlorate concentration of 54 micrograms per liter was measured in a stream sample, which is about 270 times higher than that in samples collected from sites outside the memorial. The Centers for Disease Control says high levels of perchlorates can affect the thyroid gland, which in turn can alter the function of many organs in the body. The fetus and young children can be especially susceptible.
The park provides drinking water to about 3 million visitors and personnel every year. Its superintendent, Cheryl Schreier, said Monday that the park will continue to strive to provide drinking water that “meets and exceeds current standards.”
But the USGS report says perchlorate in drinking water is not currently regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As Fire Management Officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the greater Black Hills during five of those years when fireworks were exploded over the monument, it was my job to plan for suppression of the fires that started when burning embers hit the ground. We mobilized dozens of firefighters during the busy part of the fire season and had them positioned just outside the falling-debris zone. After the aerial explosions ended, we would move in, search at night in the steep rocky terrain, and extinguish the fires.
In one of the first years, there were over a dozen that were found. They were all put out when they were small, but it was an insane concept to shoot off tons of fireworks over a Ponderosa pine forest in July. The park is not just the stone carving; it has 1,200 acres of trees and other vegetation surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest. I made my opinion known, but it carried little weight compared to the GS-15 Superintendents and other government executives.
Aside from the impractical aspects of fires, cost, and ruining the water, the esthetics of the display were disrespectful and distasteful — explosions over the faces of Presidents Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln — raining down unexploded shells, wadding, ash, pieces of the devices, paper, and poisonous chemicals; stuff than can never be completely picked up in the rugged terrain. From certain angles, it looked like the rockets were coming out of the tops of the Presidents’ heads.
I’m thinking the BLM did not waste a lot of money producing this 36-second public service announcement, but I like it, and it could be effective. Nicely done, BLM!
(UPDATE at 11:18 a.m. PT, July 1, 2015)
After we posted the video, Kevin Conran of the BLM left this comment:
Thank you for the compliments on our PSAs. As you surmised this was very low cost to produce. It was actually produced by a local high school student. We hosted a contest among the high school speech/communications classes and challenged them to produce PSAs aimed at reaching their age group.
A trial began on Monday in Virginia City, Montana for a man facing multiple felony counts for allegedly starting the Bear Trap 2 Fire west of Bozeman, Montana in June, 2012. Kyler Schmitz is accused of starting the fire when fireworks he was using ignited vegetation, ultimately burning 15,341 acres of private, Bureau of Land Management, and State owned land. The fire cost more than $1.2 million to suppress.
In a surprising announcement, the Bureau of Land Management is proposing to ban all fireworks on the 8.3 million acres of land it manages in Colorado. The surprising part is that they have been allowing fireworks at all. Current BLM rules in the state only prohibit fireworks in developed campgrounds and on a seasonal basis when there is high fire danger.
If the new policy is adopted, it will bring the BLM rules in line with other land management agencies in the state.
The public can comment on the proposal until August 9. Wildfire Today’s comment: yes, ban fireworks. Geeze. You had to ask?