States on the West Coast have decided to limit their Independence Day fireworks over fears that they could spark fires in drought-stricken areas. Cupertino, California and Anchorage, Alaska have cancelled their Independence Day fireworks shows because of the drought conditions.
Communities in Washington state and Oregon have imposed restrictions or outright bans on Independence Day fireworks displays. However, firework shows are still planned in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other parts of California.
The forecasts for scorching weather during the Fourth of July weekend have not helped matters. Authorities are already battling dozens of large wildfires across the area. Washington state has already seen more than 300 wildfires so far this year, while eight large fires are burning across Oregon.
Fire season started early this year in Alaska, with 26 large wildfires and hundreds of smaller ones reported. A fire near Houston, Alaska destroyed 7,200 acres and 55 homes, while fires near Fairbanks have left vehicles in the city with a coating of ash.
Several of the region’s lawmakers have issued warnings to their constituents about the dangers. Oregon Governor Kate Brown released a statement saying, “I encourage Oregonians to be aware and considerate of our state’s natural beauty, neighbors, and pets before deciding on when and where you choose to light fireworks.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee says that under state law, he does not have the authority to declare a statewide fireworks ban. However, all fireworks but small exploding caps are banned in Seattle. Potential penalties for a violation include up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Police have also been cracking down on illegal fireworks sales. California bans the unlicensed sale and use of Roman candles, skyrockets, firecrackers, chasers and sparklers over 10 inches long. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said authorities had seized more than 700 pounds of illegal fireworks and filed criminal cases against several fireworks suppliers.
The fears are not misplaced. A truck stacked with fireworks caught fire on a busy freeway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas on Thursday. While sparks sprayed across the roadway and traffic was impacted for a considerable amount of time, no injuries were reported.