The Fourth of July is a big holiday not just for celebrators but for firefighters as well. A night of fun can easily turn into a nightmare. Grant County Fire District 3 (GCFD3), District Chief Don Fortier addressed some of the issues that surround the 4th of July as well as some advice for those who choose to set off fireworks on the holiday.
On the fourth, GCFD3 makes sure that the resident firefighters that live at the fire station have food so they can barbeque and some of the volunteer firefighters come down to spend time with them, Fortier said. It also keeps the firefighters close and ready to respond if a call comes in.
“Normally if it’s not a windy night, it’s pretty calm. If the wind is blowing we are going to be busy,” Fortier said. “It’s typically that way with any fire, we never have a big event unless the wind is blowing.”
Fortier explained that a lot of people don’t understand that wind drives fire and it can be difficult to contain. He said that if there’s no wind and a small grass fire is started, it is easy for whoever was responsible to stomp it out.
“We recommend they don’t even set fireworks off when the wind is blowing, but, that being said, people are still going to do it, but they need to be that extra, extra careful when the wind is blowing,” Fortier said.
Fortier mentioned a situation from a few years before where some residents set fireworks off in the hills north of Quincy. “We had fires all night long,” Fortier said. The fireworks had caught some of the sagebrush on fire and it took two days for them to get the fire under control and put out.
“People need to just stay in the irrigated part of the Columbia Basin, don’t go up into the wildland,” he said. He continued to say how it takes GCFD3’s resources further out of town and away from the available resources for fighting fires in town.
Fortier advised citizens to only buy fireworks from stands in the city because they have been approved by the state as safe and sane. He also advised citizens not to buy fireworks from tribal firework stands due to the risk of the fireworks not being safe and sane because they are not regulated.
Fires that result from fireworks can also result in a big bill for the responsible party. Fortier explained that people can be held responsible for any damage from a firework and the costs to fight the fire.
“The average citizen is not prepared for what fireworks can do,” he said. “Once the firework is discharged, there is no controlling it from there.”
Just this past year, a firework caught the shrubs on the side of a house on fire, and if GCFD3 hadn’t responded so quickly, the entire house would have been burned down.
Fortier wants everybody to enjoy their Fourth of July celebrations, but asks people to do so responsibly, adding “alcohol and fireworks are not a good combination.”