Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | 5:33 p.m.
With drought conditions as severe as ever and the image of another round of California wildfires burned freshly in their minds, fire safety officials are urging extreme care with fireworks this holiday weekend.
“Just the fact that it’s 110 degrees outside with low humidity, it creates an extreme fire danger situation every year,” Henderson Deputy Fire Chief Steve Goble said.
In the Green Valley area, the fire risk has prompted a group of neighbors along the Pittman Wash to form a watch group to patrol the wash on July 3 and 4 to keep an eye out for fires.
Evelyn Gajowski, who formed the group, said she did it in response to a small fire in the wash June 21 that damaged a tree and which she said firefighters attributed to fireworks.
“It’s not a difficult decision, not at all,” Gajowski said of her decision to forgo the traditional Fourth of July celebrations for the patrol. “It seemed like the most natural thing to do, given (the fire) last Saturday.”
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Fourth of July Events
Gajowski is a member of the Project Green Steering Committee, a group of residents who live near the Pittman Wash and who have partnered with the city to plan and carry out the wash’s restoration and the construction of a trail system.
“This is a fragile desert ecosystem, and Project Green is committed to preserving and protecting it,” Gajowski said. “We would appreciate it if parents wouldn’t send their kids over to the wash to do fireworks.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks-related injuries sent 9,200 people to hospital emergency rooms in the United States in 2006. In 2005, the association reported 2,500 fires caused by fireworks, causing $39 million in damage.
The Henderson Fire Department cites those numbers, along with the growing frequency of wildfires, in calling for greater care with fireworks.
According to the department, wildfires have already destroyed almost $1.6 million acres in the United States this year, above the annual average of 1.1 million acres.
Goble said fireworks add dozens of calls to the Henderson Fire Department’s workload in the days around the Fourth of July, tying up equipment and personnel that are sent out to chase down small brush fires caused by fireworks.
“Be careful,” Goble said. “Use only the Safe and Sane fireworks. Have a bucket or a hose hand when you’re using fireworks … and remember that children should not handle fireworks.”
Additional fireworks safety tips and pointers are available online at www.cityofhenderson.com/fire and click on the Fireworks Safety link on the left.