Fireworks, wildfire safety for the 4th of July

Fireworks in a residential neighborhood
Fireworks in a residential neighborhood(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 2, 2023 at 11:05 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fireworks, bonfires, and barbeques are all common ways to celebrate July Fourth. They each have a shared risk of spreading flames and causing wildfires.

While fireworks are a popular form of celebrations even in the land of the midnight sun, summertime in Alaska adds to the risk of wildfire by fireworks.

“Currently in the interior in Fairbanks, fire danger is moderate, but we are expecting high throughout the next few days,” said Megan Mitchell, the Fairbanks area prevention technician with the Dept. of Natural Resources. While most of the interior is at moderate risk of fire, the Delta Junction area is seeing a higher level of risk and is currently facing burn suspensions. The risk of fire caused by fireworks also comes from the midnight sun and poor visibility. “When you can’t see what’s happening with your fireworks you don’t know what the winds are doing high up, so you can’t really see where the sparks are going after the firework is exploded,” said Mitchell. Those sparks could spread to other properties or public lands such as a state park or federal land. Once out of sight, it’s near impossible to know if the spark is still hot or if a fire has ignited.

Currently most of the fuel in the interior, such as spruce trees and grasses, are wet from recent thunderstorms. This makes it unlikely for fuels to catch, but if a fire is started you could face fines or be required to go to court, especially if state land is involved. “If we do observe someone setting off fireworks and we decide that it rises to the level of citation, it’s a $200 citation and that’s just a park specific regulation,” said Sam Braband, a park ranger for the state of Alaska. “In addition to our parks regulation, we also a special commission to enforce forestry regulation on state park land and so, there are some heftier fines associated with those forestry regulations.”

With campfires, the wind will be the biggest factor contributing to a wildfire, so it’s important to make sure there is adequate distance between the fire and surrounding fuel sources. Barbeques face similar issues but are less likely to spread into a wildfire. Much like with a campfire, it is still important to make sure that the coals used are cool to the touch before packing up a barbeque or leaving a campfire. “If someone does decide to use fireworks or maybe have a campfire that gets away and the wildland gets ignited, it’s just important to know that you are responsible for that fire,” said Braband “You need to call and report that fire and if possible you need to remain on scene until the appropriate resources have responded.” To report a wildfire you can always call 911.

Other safety concerns when working with fireworks or open flames are the use of alcohol and cannabis. Both substances have intoxicating effects that can impair judgement, decrease motor skills and impair balance. The use of cannabis or alcohol can increase the risk of an accident. If children are around, they should always be monitored by an adult.