A history of devastating fires in Montana, Idaho and other Rocky Mountain states should be enough to deter neighborhood firework parties, but it won’t be.
Western lands include tumbleweed desert, prairie grass, tinderbox forests with stands of dry pines, and brown foothills near big neighborhoods. Why, again, do we think it’s sensible to let loose with toys that shoot sparks, especially since some people will be hammered from the neighbor’s Fourth of July party?
Despite the elementary-school logic, telling some people they can’t set off fire fountains on a street lined with pine trees is incendiary: “Ban fireworks? On the freakin’ Fourth of freakin’ July? This is America, you freak! Go recycle something, you freaking lame-ass dork!”
There are some who subscribe to the theory that people who say things like that are the ones who blow off a body part, but it’s just hearsay.
Yes, this is America, and today is the Fourth. Fireworks are fun and traditional and bring back all kinds of childhood memories and they’re pretty and every kid should have a neighborhood fireworks gathering and yes, indeed, blowing things up is a favorite pastime of the American male.
And giving up neighborhood fireworks is sad. It’s REALLY sad.
But officials in Idaho and Montana are warning that, despite a heavier-than-normal snowpack this winter, fires are as likely as ever because of the rapid and heavy growth of grasses and groundcover from the extra moisture.
About half of wildfires are human-caused, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
That means almost half the devastation from western fires could have been prevented. If you lost a loved one, a house, a barn, your land from one of those fires, would you still set off fireworks on your street?
And are you willing to keep paying the massive bills from this nonsense?
Of course, good forest management includes letting some fires burn and setting off controlled burns when it makes sense according to experts.
But I think we can all agree we don’t want enormous, unexpected, wildly dangerous fires breaking out. And half of them are breaking out because of us. Naturally, fireworks are to blame for just a few – but the next one could be the one that roars through the foothills.
There are many ways to show your patriotism and celebrate the Fourth. Take the family to a public fireworks display, even though it pains you to skip the trip to the fireworks stand. Mingle and mix with other Americans to honor our independence.
Or have a no-fireworks backyard party. Drape the house with red, white and blue streamers and flags, hand out silly hats, pass babies around, eat barbeque and have a watermelon seed-spitting contest. Get the kids to read the first part of the Declaration of Independence out loud and play corny patriotic music on a boombox. Don’t forget to lock up nervous dogs.
You could, as we do in our neighborhood, make everybody stand up and say the Pledge and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Every year, they groan and moan, but struggle out of their lawn chairs and do it – and they come back every year.
Sacred cows like street fireworks are hard to slay. The killjoy factor is undeniable, but so is the wreckage and ruin that fires can cause.
….from the mountains….to the prairies….
This article was first published in 2008.