Yreka will move forward with a formal fireworks ban

Skip Descant
Special to the Siskiyou Daily News
The Yreka City Council is plans to ban all fireworks year round.

Yreka is taking steps to ban all fireworks, regardless of the time of year.

The Yreka City Council will move forward with developing an ordinance to make fireworks illegal, with the exception of planned permitted fireworks displays, overseen by fire officials. 

The ordinance will take the place of temporary bans, put in place since June 2021. 

“I would prefer not to be responsible for a fire that takes someone’s life or takes someone’s home,” said councilman Paul McCoy, endorsing the move to ban fireworks. 

“We have to look out for first and foremost the safety of our citizens and the safety of our city,” agreed Councilman Duane Kegg.  “Growing up here, I have seen the fire danger go up and down, up and down. This last couple of years has been the highest fire danger I have seen. We’ve got to look past what the past was, and look to the future, and the safety of our citizens.”

The fireworks issue was raised by Councilman Drake Davis, who opposes a ban on fireworks. Several weeks ago he voted against the council’s consent agenda — a perfunctory listing of easily approved, and generally non-controversial pieces of the council’s official business — on the grounds that it included the regular temporary ban on fireworks.  

At the Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting, Davis asked that the ordinance — yet to be drafted — allow for the use of fireworks during years “that are not as dry as they have been.” 

“If we are using ‘safe and sane’ in front of our house, on the street, with a garden hose close by, most of the time fire is not an issue,” said Davis, using the legal term for the types of fireworks sold at roadside stands and considered legal by the state fire marshal. “I’m not for banning fireworks."

That was not the position held by the rest of the city council, or City Manager Jason Ledbetter. 

Shasta County outlawed fireworks, as well as Redding, Ledbetter reminded the council. “I believe the correct direction ― would be to continue to move in that direction,” he added. 

Fireworks come in many forms. Any firework shooting above 10 feet is illegal in the state, said city officials, so those are already banned. 

“They’re illegal. You can’t have them. You can’t posses them. You can’t use them,” said Yreka Fire Chief Jerry Lemos: Mainly because of their ability to land far from where they were exploded and begin a fire. 

“My fear (is) that’s what we’re going to get. We’re going to get a structure fire because someone shot something in the air,” Lemos told the council. 

But even the “safe and sane” variety present a danger; particularly at the height of summer, when temperatures are soaring and humidity is low ― and what Lemos said is his worst fear during those times, wind. 

“You have to take a stance on this,” Lemos told the council. “I’ve thought about this really hard over the last couple of years.” 

Davis was careful to remind the council that the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, as well as the wildfire that swept through Talent, Oregon in 2020, were not caused by fireworks. 

However, those fires were the sort of wind-driven, fast-moving conflagrations made more deadly and dangerous by the weather conditions. 

“My worst fear would be having a wind-driven event started by the misuse of fireworks,” Lemos said.