Fourth of July fallout fairly minimal

Used fireworks blamed in fire that damages home

By Marissa Harshman and Tom Vogt

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A bag of used fireworks left over from a July 4 celebration continued to smolder Tuesday well into the dawn’s early light, causing $25,000 in damage to a Vancouver home.

That was one carry-over story Tuesday as Clark County officials reviewed the impact of Independence Day.

In some neighborhoods, that impact could be measured in decibels, according to a spike in 911 calls during prime-time hours for neighborhood fireworks barrages.

Despite the window-rattling blasts, local hospitals indicated that their emergency department caseloads were fairly typical for a holiday weekend.

Dangerous debris

The Vancouver Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 1203 N.E. Cedar Ridge Loop at 6:18 a.m. Tuesday.

The fire marshal identified the cause of the blaze as the improper storage of spent fireworks, Capt. Kevin Murray said.

The spent fireworks were placed in a paper bag and set by the home. The debris ignited the bag and burned the outside of the home. Smoke filled the attic, but the blaze didn’t reach the inside of the home, Murray said.

The fire caused $25,000 in damage.

Hot material — like spent fireworks, fire pit ashes and barbecue ashes — should never be stored in combustible containers and should be doused with water, Murray said.

“Any hot material, put it in a metal container and get it away from the house,” he said. “Never ever store it in a combustible container.”

The morning call came after a busy night for the department. Firefighters were extremely active on the Fourth of July, heading from one fireworks-related fire to another, Murray said.

Luckily, he said, there were no major structure fires in the city. Crews were able to reach and extinguish all of the fires.

The high call volume was typical for the holiday, he said.

“Anytime you have objects, hot objects that fly and you can’t see where they land, it generally spells a busy evening for us,” Murray said.

Roof fire doused

Clark County Fire District 6 firefighters responded to 10 fireworks-related fires Monday between 4 and 11:30 p.m., spokeswoman Dawn Johnson said.

One fire was caused by a smoldering firework on the roof of a home at 10213 N.E. 33rd Court. People inside the home were evacuated. A bystander used water from a garden hose to put out the fire.

Nine of the fires were in brush.

District 6 crews did not respond to any fireworks-related injuries, Johnson said.

911 calls spike

The regional dispatch center reported a “significant spike” in calls to 911 from 10 to 11 p.m. on Independence Day, operations manager Anna Pendergrass said.

The center took 260 calls during that one-hour period Monday — the highest total during that time span in a table of July 4 calls that goes back to 1999.

“Last year, we had 110 calls from 10 to 11 p.m.,” Pendergrass said.

The 11-to-midnight hour also was up, with 166 calls; the agency fielded 118 calls in both 2010 and 2009. (The highs during the 11-midnight slot were 209 in 2007 and 211 in 2006).

“I increased the staffing during those hours,” she said. Dispatchers said “it was busy, but manageable.”

Increased calls during those two hours didn’t mean an increase in officer response, because use of legal fireworks was permitted until midnight on the Fourth.

“People would say it’s such a loud boom that it has to be illegal,” Pendergrass said. However, loud doesn’t equal illegal. Fire officials said that legal fireworks sold this summer would rattle neighborhood windows.

No ER surges

Neither Vancouver-area hospital reported holiday-related upticks in their emergency departments.

“It was not unusually busy” at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, spokeswoman Lise Harwin said.

At PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, emergency department traffic was typical for a summer weekend or holiday, spokesman Ken Cole said.

The emergency department reported 11 fireworks-related injuries during the extended weekend, including eight on Monday.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558 or tom.vogt@columbian.com.