Despite a last minute push from opponents, the Bend City Council unanimously approved a ban on the sale, possession and use of all fireworks on Wednesday.
The new ordinance will take effect in November, said city attorney Ian Leitheiser, and violators can be fined up to $750.
The ban was adopted as an attempt to reduce wildfire risk.
“It just takes one random firework to start one major event,” Mayor Sally Russell said Wednesday, after making a reference to the fireworks that started the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017.
The City Council temporarily banned legal fireworks the week leading up to the Fourth of July in response to a historic heat wave and drought conditions.
In response to a significant amount of community feedback, the council later in the summer began to consider a permanent ban of the sale and use of any fireworks. Public, permitted displays, like the one on Pilot Butte, would still be allowed.
The primary concern of the council was rising wildfire risk, and fears that climate change will only make conditions more dangerous over time.
But a coalition of churches and charities who use fireworks sales as a way to raise money formed under the leadership of James Fuller, who said he is a fire safety expert representing the company TNT Fireworks. A Facebook page, called “Save Bend’s 4th,” was created Tuesday.
Banning fireworks is a bad idea, Fuller said, because it will take away a critical source of funding for churches and other groups, who run fireworks stands in advance of the Fourth of July. Fuller also argued the ban would be ineffective, because it will just push fireworks sellers outside of city limits.
Fuller said illegal, aerial fireworks are the real fire danger, and the ban does nothing to address that.
“What you do is you position consumers to make a decision, and most of the time what you’ll find is they’ll continue to use fireworks to celebrate a 200-year tradition in this country,” he said to The Bulletin on Wednesday.
Emergency calls related to fireworks did drop during the temporary fireworks ban, Trish Connolly, a battalion chief with Bend Fire & Rescue, told The Bulletin during the summer.
Fire crews responded to just one small fireworks-related call on the holiday, according to Connolly.
That is down from 2020, when there were six, and 2019, when there were four and Bend Fire & Rescue fought two structure fires at the same time. In 2018, the department responded to 14 brush fires, including an 8-acre fire at the base of Pilot Butte before the public fireworks show.
Fuller said the goal was to get the council to at least delay the vote to give them a chance to hear from constituents who are against the ban.
“There’s nothing going on over the next three weeks that would prompt the need to expedite a ban on fireworks,” he said.
City Councilor Barb Campbell argued the idea to ban fireworks is not out of the blue, and that the council for years has received comment from the public asking the council to ban fireworks.
She also said that having a permanent ban actually hurt local charities and churches less than having a system where drought conditions were evaluated every year before the Fourth of July.
“From my own perspective, the very worst thing that can happen for folks who sell fireworks….is not a ban on fireworks,” Campbell said. “The worst thing is finding out that fireworks have been banned...because of (weather) conditions, after someone has already invested in that inventory, after someone has already paid for that space, after someone has rented that tent.”