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POLICE AND FIRE No major fires, but plenty of illegal fireworks seen

By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA

News editor

July 6, 2005

Noisy, but quiet.

Such was the July Fourth weekend around Hood River County, report fire department and law enforcement personnel.

No significant fires occurred anywhere in the county, according to reports. Pine Grove Fire Department put out a small fire on Van Horn Drive and West Side dealt with a small blaze on Multnomah Road.

“We seized illegal fireworks and there was one citation issued, with a penalty of $500, but we had no fire calls,” said Hood River fire chief Jeff Walker.

“They were chasing grass fires from Lyle to Underwood, but pretty good in our area,” he said.

But the potential for far greater damage was certainly there, according to Hood River County Sherrif’s department Capt. Jim Thompson.

“I lost count just driving around listening to the illegal fireworks,” Thompson said.

“It was pretty run amok around the county. You could see the aerial ones all over the valley. It’s lucky we didn’t have a big one (fire),” he said.

Walker said Hood River firefighters visited at least 10 homes where they confiscated illegal fireworks under threat of citation.

“The usual answer was, ‘We didn’t know they were illegal’,” Walker said. “A lot of times they just run away and it’s pretty hard to find them in the dark.”

“We were lucky this year they didn’t hit the hillside again,” Walker said, referring to a serious fire on the hill above downtown Hood River in 2004.

Walker said he is investigating a prevention effort involving citation of property owners for use of illegal fireworks in the city.

People watching the Eyeopener Lions fireworks display Monday night saw what appeared to be a large blaze on the bluff across the river just west of White Salmon. Fire officials said it was one of two fireworks-caused grass fires but firefighters quickly doused them before they spread.

“All in all it was pretty quiet,” said West Side fire marshal Jim Trammell.

“We had a lot of calls for running around for people with illegal fireworks,” he said.

Chief Greg Borton said Odell and Pine Grove had very few calls over the weekend.

Thompson noted that many people set off illegal fireworks for several nights before July 4.

“We’ll hear it for several more nights,” he said.

Thompson also reported five arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants but no injuries or accidents other than one of the arrester’s striking a guardrail on Interstate 84.

Deputies responded to a 4:40 a.m. fight on July 3 at the Powerdale Dam. A 17-year-old male suffered a punch to the face and a cut in the neck from a beer bottle; the unidentified suspect fled, according to Thompson.

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