For six years, Portland Fire & Rescue has been waging a border war against illegal fireworks from Washington state. Now it's looking to Washington, D.C. to fund that war.
Portland City Council will vote Wednesday to approve an application by the fire bureau for $120,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency money.
The Assistance to Firefighters, Fire Prevention & Safety Grant would fund the fire bureau's educational campaign against illegal fireworks, which started in 2006. Last summer, Portland and four other fire departments spent $70,000 on a media blitz warning Oregonians not to set off the illegal bottle rockets and mortars readily available (and legal) across the Columbia River.
In a corresponding enforcement effort, called Operation Lower the Boom, Portland firefighters confiscated two truckloads of fireworks worth $35,000—and burned them in a Tualatin incinerator in November.
"We still have a problem," says Michael Silva, a fire bureau senior inspector. "There are individuals out there who still don't understand the scope of what they're doing. We still have to reach them."
Silva says the FEMA grant would only go to education, not confiscation and citations.
"We do the code enforcement side of things because people still don't get it," he says. "The more we get that message out, the more people become aware of their neighbors."
If Portland Fire & Rescue gets the FEMA grant, a coalition including regional fire departments, hospitals and animal shelters has pledged to add $30,000 in matching funds.
But the timing of the grant application means Portland Fire & Rescue wouldn't know if it received the FEMA funding until June. So any money it gets would go to a 2014 anti-fireworks campaign.