Picture of fireworks in the night sky.As July 4th approaches, it got me thinking of wildfire preparedness. Growing up in Nevada and celebrating Independence Day was about enjoying barbequed food with friends and family and settling down in lawn chairs to enjoy a professional fireworks display in the evening sky. However my husband’s upbringing in Oregon proved to be much different.

He said, “We celebrated the 4th of July by lighting our own fireworks. Rows of homes in the neighborhood would participate simultaneously. I remember sitting on the lawn in our front yard and taking turns lighting fireworks. When I moved to Washoe County, with a few exceptions such as tribal lands, I realized that fireworks weren’t sold at local stores and was shocked to learn that fireworks were illegal.”

Newcomers, visitors and even some residents don’t realize that fireworks are illegal in the majority of Nevada. Besides Clark County (legal to possess “safe and sane” fireworks) , Esmeralda County (allowed one mile out of any town),  Lander County, (permitted outside of the townships) and tribal lands (can be purchased there, but once the fireworks leave tribal lands, they can and will be confiscated) fireworks are illegal to possess and use.

Fireworks don’t bode well in our high fire-prone areas. The 2008 Ridgecrest Fire, started by children playing with fireworks, destroyed four homes. Fine fuels like cheatgrass are plentiful in our region and are dried out at this time of the year. Cheatgrass is an example of an invasive grass that is highly flammable. It’s advised to remove this flammable grass. Learn how to remove cheatgrass safely and properly .

Nevada State Fire Marshal Bart J Chambers says, “The safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show and there are many being held in Nevada this year. Look for these events in local area newspapers, websites and television and radio announcements.  Please enjoy and have a very safe 4th of July Holiday with your friends and family.”

As we celebrate Independence Day, let this be a reminder for locals, visitors and newcomers that fireworks are illegal in most Nevada counties, to please leave the fireworks displays up to the professionals and that residents should prepare for wildfire. Learn how to prepare for wildfire as reviewed in the June 2018 Living With Fire blog. 


headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

The 4th of July and a local fireworks show has always been a fixture of my upbringing in Nevada. My family would always pack cold drinks and desserts in a cooler and find a cozy patch of grass or a great spot to set up camping chairs in a parking lot to watch one of the area’s professional firework shows. As a new homeowner living at the base of a mountain range dotted with burn scars, I’m still looking forward to my favorite professional fireworks display, but am also concerned about the potential fire hazard illegal fireworks could cause my community.

A local news story recently confirmed my concern. Their message: leave firework shows in the hands of professionals. The interview showed footage of a partially-burned house where a bottle rocket landed in a nearby juniper bush and ignited the structure. What happened to this home isn’t an isolated incident. According to the City of Sparks Fire Marshal, Bob King, 4th of July fireworks cause more fires in the United States than all other fire causes combined in a typical year. The interview cautions that anyone caught with fireworks in Washoe County can be charged with a misdemeanor, receive jail time and can be fined. If a fire is started by fireworks, they could have to pay for fire suppression costs and for damages caused by the fire. The City of Sparks Fire Department will accept fireworks voluntarily handed in with a “no questions asked” kind of policy. Watch the interview here.

Aside from creating a fire hazard, many people who are lighting fireworks or are nearby as they’re shot off have been gravely injured. I was surprised to learn that a sparkler can generate enough heat to really hurt someone. A fact sheet from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that the average level of heat a sparkler puts off when lit is 1200 degrees Fahrenheit at its tip; that’s hot enough to melt glass, burn wood, bake a cake, boil water and cause third-degree burns. NFPA makes a similar caution to King’s: if people want to see fireworks, they should attend a show put on by experts.

I was happy to discover that there is something I can do if I see or hear illegal fireworks nearby… call 911! The City of Reno provided this information along with some safety tips on grilling and campfires.  Read it here. It’s a good idea to check with your local fire marshal for the regulations in your area.

I can’t wait to celebrate the fourth with my loved ones while enjoying the sights and sounds of the local professional fireworks show. I’m also grateful to my local fire services and other community members who want to keep the holiday a safe one, and keep any fires from ruining the Independence Day fun.

Happy 4th of July!

Natalie Newcomer