July 23, 2023 — The U.S. Forest Service in Albuquerque urges the public to refrain from using fireworks on public lands during the wildfire season, which can be exacerbated by monsoon lightning. They have offered alternative celebration methods, which, however, have been met with some criticism.
Safer Celebration Alternatives.
Encouraging the public to leave fireworks to the experts, the U.S. Forest Service suggests the following safer alternatives to minimize the risk of injuries, accidental fires, property damage, and litter:
- Glow sticks, which are safe for individuals of all ages.
- Red, white, and blue silly string.
- Hosting an outdoor movie night using a projector.
- Attending a professional fireworks display in the vicinity.
Firefighting resources are typically strained during the Fourth of July period. By avoiding fireworks, campfires, and BBQs, the public can contribute to preventing man-made wildfires.
Fire Safety and Etiquette.
If there are fire restrictions, it’s advisable to use gas-powered camp stoves and fire pits. However, it’s essential to be mindful of:
- Placement: Avoid setting up stoves near dry grass, especially on windy days.
- Disposal: Do not discard coals from charcoal grills in the woods as they may reignite.
The Forest Service encourages a “leave no trace” policy. This involves adhering to all rules and regulations in national forests, not only on holidays but at all times. According to John Winn, a spokesperson for the federal agency, this includes:
- Abiding by firework restrictions.
- Disposing of trash properly in designated bins.
- Observing quiet hours.
- Cleaning up after camping or day-use activities.
Controversy Surrounding Alternatives.
Some of the proposed alternatives have raised concerns. For example, silly string, which is popular at parties, has faced bans in certain places. Los Angeles banned aerosol party streamers in 2004 due to their misuse and littering. Towns in Massachusetts and Alabama have also implemented restrictions.
The composition of silly string is largely unknown as manufacturers do not disclose the ingredients. Generally, it’s made of a polymer resin, a foaming substance, solvent, coloring, and a propellant. Rebecca Sobel from WildEarth Guardians points out that everyday products like these may contain harmful chemicals. The Forest Service is urged to be more vigilant regarding these substances, especially when recommending them for use in national forests.
Madeleine Carey, WildEarth Guardians’ Southwest conservation manager, mentions that products like silly string, Mylar balloons, noisemakers, and glitter are detrimental to forests and wildlife, and should not be used in national forest recreation areas.
In conclusion, while it’s important to celebrate and enjoy holidays and other occasions, it’s equally critical to do so responsibly, keeping in mind the safety of people, property, and the environment.