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A Big Badda-Boom!

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“A Big Badda-Boom!” is how Bruce Willis’ character Korben Dallas described the sound when Milla Jovavich’s character Leeloo comes crashing through the roof of his taxi cab in the movie “The Fifth Element.”

Korben's Air Taxi (Left) | Image by en.wikipedia.org
Korben’s Air Taxi (Left) | Image by en.wikipedia.org

I’m sorry to say it’s that time of the year when that is also the sound I hear in my neighborhood, particularly right around the 4th of July, as people start lighting up illegal airborne fireworks. They are not only illegal, but they are dangerous because the user doesn’t know where they are going to land. It could land in the street, in someone’s yard, on someone’s roof or even literally on someone in the neighborhood. That’s why they are illegal. We’ve just experienced some significant rainfall, but all we need is some sunshine and warming temperatures to dry us out again and make misusing fireworks will become even more dangerous.

I have lived in Eugene since January 22,1992 and during that time have seen neighbors having safe fun shooting off legal fireworks for their children. I have vivid memories of doing the same with our two kids, who are now adults. I have lived all over the country and the same issue has come up everywhere. There are laws regulating the use of fireworks, but by no means are there enough police to adequately enforce them. I’m sure they roll out on the more serious complaints, especially when people or property are damaged, but they can’t be everywhere at once and the noise goes on.

Legal Fireworks Stand 18th & Chambers | Photo by Tim Chuey
Legal Fireworks Stand 18th & Chambers | Photo by Tim Chuey

The Eugene City council approved two ordinances Monday June 23rd that, if not obeyed, could get you a $500 fine. The first ordinance sets limits when legal fireworks can be used. The two time periods when they are allowed are June 23rd through July 6th for Independence Day celebrations (that coincides with the dates the fireworks can legally be sold) and December 31st and January 1st for New Years Eve and New Years Day celebrations. The second ordinance they approved is an add-on to the social host ordinance already on the books. This added “the unruly use of fireworks” to the social host ordinance which was originally put into place to place controls on the the patrolling  of parties that get out of control and disturb the neighborhood. The ordinances give the authorities the power to effectively punish those who cause the disturbances. This will more than likely decrease the use of illegal fireworks, but I doubt it will ever end it. Some may feel this is taking away some people’s freedom, but one person’s freedom to shoot off fireworks should not take away somebody else’s freedom to have a peaceful neighborhood where you’re free from flaming debris falling from the sky threatening your property.

What can you do to protect yourself from the barrage of explosions and burning debris?  My first suggestion would be to have your garden hoses connected and ready should some of the burning fragments of fireworks land in your yard or worse yet on your roof. The authorities always tell you to evacuate your house and immediately call 911 if there is a fire. You shouldn’t try to fight a fire by yourself, but if you can be a safe distance from the building I guess using your hose could be helpful on a very small fire until the fire department arrives. Remember that is just my opinion and not that of the Eugene Fire Department.

Our Indoor Cat Rolland | Photo by Tim Chuey
Our Indoor Cat Rolland |
Photo by Tim Chuey

One of the biggest problems I have seen over the years is the distress all of these explosions cause to our pets. More people have their outdoor pets run away during this time because the sudden and constant nearby explosion of fireworks. We have an indoor cat (Rolland) who stays indoors all the time and a feral outdoor cat (Hunter) for whom I built a little house he inhabits on our front stoop. As long as we keep the house relatively closed up and have the TV on the explosions surprise Rolland (about 18 years old), but he doesn’t go into a panic mode.

Hunter In His House | Photo by Tim Chuey
Hunter In Front Of His House | Photo by Tim Chuey

Hunter doesn’t stay in his insulated, tarp covered cardboard house probably because it acts as a sounding board and makes the booms even louder. He must have a “safe” place where the noise level is much lower because he disappears and only comes back when the noise stops. Another thought, if your dog or dogs are frightened by the loud noises by all means do not take them with you to the more professional fireworks displays because the noise level there will be magnified many times louder than what happens in your own neighborhood. That’s what we do to help our little friends survive the celebrations, but what do the experts have to say?

Our veterinarian,  Dr. Sandra Smalley from the Edgewood Animal Clinic gave me some ideas to pass on to you so you can help your family pets. Besides being our pet’s doctor, Dr. Smalley is also our neighbor who has experienced exactly what we have over the years.

First of all there are some medications that may help the most sensitive pets that are seriously affected by the loud, sudden noises for whom no other measures are helpful.  There are anti-anxiety medications not sedatives. Dr. Smalley cautions never to give a pet your medications, no matter how small a dose, because these drugs will at best make your pet sick and at the worst could kill them. She also suggested what is called a thunder shirt that is like swaddling and can comfort pets. If your pet has a favorite “safe place” you could add extra padding like  pillows or a blanket to muffle the noise. You are advised to check with your veterinarian to see what would work best for you. As I already mentioned concerning our indoor cat you could close up the house with the TV on to cover some of the booms or you could have a fan running for “white noise” which helps cover noise. If your pet feels comfortable in a travel carrier or a crate have it available for them to use for their comfort area. Dogs usually do better inside rather too than in the yard where they can become agitated and dig under the fence and escape your yard. Some experts say you may be able to condition your pet to the startling sounds and commotion by getting them used to them by using positive conditioning. Praising them and rewarding them as they slowly get used to increasingly louder sounds. Veterinarians also say it is especially important with the fireworks noise levels to make sure your pets have at least an ID tag on their collar and better yet the addition of an ID microchip just in case they do panic and run away.

Independence Day Celebration At Dexter Lake |Image by EDN
Independence Day Celebration At Dexter Lake |Image by EDN

Since I mentioned the more professional fireworks displays I will take this opportunity to remind you that the annual July 4th Bar-B-Q picnic and fireworks display takes place again this year at Dexter Lake. The event is put on by the Dexter Volunteer Firefighters Association and EDN with many sponsors. (See the poster above.)

Have a Safe and sane 4th of July Holiday weekend. If you are reading this after the 4th you might want to print out a copy of this information and keep it handy for next year.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: tim.chuey@eugenedailynews.com.

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