By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Emergency services were kept busy over the Fourth of July weekend culminating in a two-alarm fire Monday, July 4.
Crews from the Keizer Fire District were summoned to 804 Faymar Drive N.E. The owner of the home awoke to crackling and smoke and opened the door to his garage to find it fully engulfed in flame.
While the source of the blaze is still under investigation, Division Chief Brian Butler said the cause may have been fireworks.
“He got his wife and stepdaughter out of the home but. for right now, they can’t live there,” Butler said.
While the blaze was contained to the garage after about 20 minutes, the rest of the home suffered severe smoke damage.
Butler said he called for a second alarm to help combat the flames and received assistance from Salem Fire Department, Marion County Fire District No. 1 and the Chemeketa Fire program.
“I wasn’t too sure how many we were going to get because we had four fires in the area called in at around the same time,” Butler said.
The home is insured and smoke detectors were working.
Annie-Marie Storms, KFD’s spokesperson, said crews ran on 18 calls in the 24-hour period around July 4, but most of them were medical calls. There were no injuries reported as a result of firework usage.
While she couldn’t say there had been a spike in calls related to fireworks, she said many of the conversations she had Tuesday, July 5, revolved around the seeming uptick in use of illegal fireworks.
“Almost everyone I’ve talked to said it was worse than it’s been in years past,” Storms said. “When we did our Walk with a Firefighter Tuesday morning, the streets we walked along were full of firework debris.”
At the Keizer Police Department, the three officers on duty received 20 fireworks complaints between 7:48 and 11:41 p.m.
No citations were issued because officers did not see anyone actually lighting an illegal firework.
“They were overwhelmed by the large volume of calls in such a short period of time,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Kuhns. “They attempted to deter any further use of illegal fireworks by driving through the neighborhoods where the complaints originated and warning persons they had contact with not to light any off if they possessed them.”
While figures from last year were unavailable by press time, Kuhns said the use of illegal fireworks has grown to “epidemic” proportions across the state. In Lake Oswego, firefighters responded to three fires in three hours that were directly attributed to fireworks.
“Violators blatantly disregard the law putting bystanders and property at risk all while knowing their actions are illegal,” Kuhns said.