Portland Fire prepares for a busy 4th of July

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Commercial shows have been canceled due to the pandemic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Between protests and illegal fireworks, there are a lot of concerns about fire calls for the Fourth of July.

“We are expecting it to be a busy night,” said Fire Investigator Rob Garrison with Portland Fire and Rescue.

With major firework shows canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, fire investigators with Portland Fire and Rescue are watching and waiting to see what will happen this Fourth of July.

“With the fact that there are no commercial shows for people to go and watch this year, we are expecting there to be more people launching their own fireworks in the neighborhoods,” explained Garrison. “And any time that happens the fire danger goes up.”

He is concerned that people have traveled to Vancouver, Washington to pick up larger-style fireworks—like mortars, which are illegal in Oregon. Garrison said anything that shoots more than six feet off the ground is not permitted. People caught with illegal fireworks could be cited for up to $500 under city code, and possibly a Class B misdemeanor under state law, according to Garrison.

“I’ve heard the other day that the Vancouver fireworks stores have had record sales,” said Garrison. “So, I’m assuming those are not all in Washington and we are going to get some illegal fireworks tonight.”

Shortly after speaking with KOIN 6 News, Garrison said firefighters were called to a fire in which some landscaping arborvitae went up in flames. He said it’s easy for a fire to spread in those shrubs.

“An arborvitae will catch on fire in the pouring down rain,” said Garrison. “Arborvitaes are very flammable, so, you get a mortar in one of those and it’s going to burn.”

In addition to concerns about fireworks, protests could keep firefighters busy as well.

“The protest activities, I think, are also a concern for us. There has been a lot of fires surrounding that, so we have to monitor that situation,” said Garrison. “If it’s a trash fire in the middle of the street that is related to the protest, the risk is not worth it for us going in there. We document them, but don’t actually respond. But, if there is a building on fire we have to respond.”

Typically, there is only one fire investigator working on any one shift. However, for the Fourth of July, Portland Fire and Rescue has staffed several to tackle the calls.

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