The Albany fire and police departments want residents to be safe and legal this fireworks season, but they are prepared for inevitable illegal activity.
Fireworks stands officially opened Friday and will sell their wares through July 6. But the products they are permitted to sell do not include the airborne, exploding type we all hear each Fourth of July. Those types, which include Roman candles, bottle rockets and cherry bombs, are illegal.
In fact, each year Albany police and fire personnel respond to 80 to 100 reports of illegal fireworks and fireworks-related calls. While these calls are valid threats to safety and property, Deputy Fire Marshal Sandy Roberts said they also pull critical resources away from all other 911 calls for service in Albany.
Fireworks stands — in many cases, the stands raise money for various nonprofit entities — were opening on Friday through the mid-valley.
Jamie Dewees had his fireworks stand at Hope Church, 2817 Santiam Hwy. SE in Albany, open by noon Friday. The campus minister said he starts ordering his products in April or May, and uses the profits to help fund his ministry.
His tent is filled with colorful boxes and collections with names like "Killer Fountain" and "American Fury." Each package carries the promise of dazzling and explosive fun for the whole family. Prices vary; they can range from $50 to as much as $200 for a 5-foot rack assortment of sparklers, snakes, smokers, poppers, ribbons, noisemakers and spinners.
To make sure he buys the legal stuff, the benchmark term in the industry, he says, is "Safe and Sane." These include fireworks that do not feature aerial effects and do not explode.
He says customers will trickle in during the days up to about July 1.
"It's nonstop after that," he said.
In the meantime, police and fire officials were emphasizing that fireworks, while fun, can cause serious bodily injury and pose a significant risk to property.
They urged people lighting fireworks to keep a water hose ready and to light all fireworks on a concrete or gravel surface with a 10-foot clearance away from all vegetation and structures.
"Alcohol and fireworks do not mix," said Roberts of the Albany Fire Department. "Save your alcohol for after the show."
It's also important to use a water bucket for all used fireworks and to pick them up only after they are safe to handle. Do not allow children to light fireworks.
The department also reminds fireworks users to "be considerate of your neighbors, pets, others near you when considering the timing of your fireworks."
Each year, residents complain to authorities when their pets become terrorized by the noise.
Curtis Singer is the communications director at SafeHaven Humane Society in Tangent. He said most dogs cannot be socialized to the noise of fireworks simply because they have such limited exposure to it.
"A lot of dogs have noise anxiety already," he said.
Singer said dog owners can help them by wrapping them, in the same way an infant would get wrapped in a blanket for comfort.
"Another problem is when dogs get scared and they run to us and we pet them, it reinforces that fear," he added.
Oregon law limits the types of fireworks that can be legally sold to the general public to those which produce only smoke, sparks or fire. Fireworks that explode, eject balls of fire, fly into the air, or travel more than 6 feet horizontally and 12 inches vertically from the point of ignition cannot be sold to the general public under state law.