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Ada County fire crews offer advice on fireworks ahead of Fourth of July

While fireworks may be banned in the Boise Foothills and unincorporated Ada County areas, fire departments are still offering advice ahead of Fourth of July.

ADA COUNTY, Idaho — Stands selling fireworks will open for business across the Treasure Valley Thursday. However Fire departments in Ada County are warning people before they buy, they should know where they can shoot them off and how to do it safely.

Eagle Fire Department Battalion Chief Rob Shoplock said this past spring saw one of the wettest seasons in recent history which may be good in some circumstances, but could cause large fuel loads later in the season. He also pointed out that the tall grass areas around Eagle are also worrisome when it comes to fires.

"I think the biggest danger is people see some of the green grass and say, 'Well, this isn't combustible, we're not going to have any issues.' But the truth of the matter is these fuels dry out in less than an hour," Shoplock said.

Lighting off fireworks nearby grassy areas while there are warmer, dry temperatures outside could be a recipe for disaster warned Shoplock.

"It's very dangerous because it is dry inside there. That moisture content is evaporated out and then those fuels just take off," Shoplock said.

Ada County Commissioners renewed a resolution to ban fireworks in areas of Ada County, specifically fireworks in the foothills where vegetation is a fire hazard. Commissioners passed the ban with a 2-1 vote Tuesday night. 

"The danger in the threat level of fire not just occurring, but rapidly spreading is far greater than it's been in the past few years," Shoplock said. He added Eagle Fire has extra members on duty during the Fourth of July holiday ready to go in case a fire starts. He said he expects to see more people getting together this year, compared to the past two years, which could make crews busier.

The Boise Foothills saw some of that danger last year with the Goose Fire, which burnt more than 425 acres. Ada County Sheriff's Office said the fire was started after a group of juveniles played with fireworks north of the Eagle Bike Park. The fire was started in unincorporated Ada County.

While the ban may not always stop people from playing with fireworks in these areas, Shoplock and other fire crews around Ada County say it is needed. 

"We're trying to avoid great losses of either land, grass, resources, houses, whatever we can," said Joe Bongiorno, the deputy chief of fire prevention for Meridian Fire Department.

Bongiorno said any little spark has the potential to set nearby grass off and burn. He calls the summer, especially around the Fourth of July, one of the department's busier seasons.

"We recommend buying 'Safe and Sane' fireworks and then utilize them in the intended use," Bongiorno said. "Cul De Sacs in neighborhoods work really great because typically they're 100 feet in diameter and have a lot of space." 

Safe and sane fireworks don't fly into the air or explode, which reduces the risk of someone getting hurt and of course, starting a fire. 

He also reminds people to dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in a water bucket immediately after use.

"About every year, we end up with at least one structure fire because people will just pick up their fireworks and throw them in the garbage can," Bongiorno said.

Anyone caught lighting illegal fireworks could face a misdemeanor citation. They could be fined anywhere between $100-$500 depending on where they live, as well as potentially facing jail time.

Ada County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Patrick Orr told KTVB that deputies and officers with the Kuna, Eagle and Star Police Departments will prioritize calls for service on the Fourth of July based on public safety concerns.

"While we will have normal patrol staffing on the holiday and the days around it, we want deputies to concentrate on issues that have the most impact on our community (persons and property crimes) and be able to respond to emergencies like every other day of the year, so our response to the dozens of illegal fireworks calls and complaints will be limited," Orr said.

He added if a law enforcement officer sees someone lighting off illegal fireworks, they will confiscate their remaining illegal fireworks.

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