Five Very Unfortunate Things People Have Done With Fireworks in Portland

Usually it’s just-lit fireworks or duds that cause the most damage or injury. But not last year.

A foolish man with a sparkler. (Jarod Opperman)

During last year’s fireworks season, which stretches June 23 to July 6, Portland saw 49 fires caused by fireworks. Nineteen of those happened on July 4.

As Independence Day approaches, Portland Fire & Rescue inspector Paul Jennings took a trip down memory lane to the worst firework mishaps in the Portland area since 2011.

July 4, 2011

An illegal aerial rocket—a cheap, illicit firework that shoots into the sky and explodes—landed on top of a building on Northeast Alberta Street. The sparks caused a two-alarm fire that closed three businesses (including Aviary, later named WW restaurant of the year) and did more than $1 million in damages.

July 1, 2012

A firework exploded in the hands of a man who was celebrating in Northwest Portland. He lost several fingers and suffered extreme burns on his hand and forearm.

July 4, 2013

An illegal mortar exploded directly above four people in Northeast Portland. The firework struck one onlooker in the face, and spit hot sparks at the others. They had to be treated for severe burn injuries.

August 19, 2013

Two groups of people aimed bottle rockets at one another, and fired back and forth on Government Island. The fireworks sparked a fire that shut the state recreation area down. Twenty people had to be rescued from the blaze. It took 90 firefighters to quell the flames and two were injured before the last embers died.

July 5, 2016

Usually it's just-lit fireworks or duds that cause the most damage or injury. But last year, a bunch of used fireworks placed in a plastic bag and dumped in a trash can grew so hot that they ignited a house fire in Milwaukie and caused extensive damage to the structure.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.