As much of the West prepares for a hot, dry Fourth of July weekend, some of the area’s US Forest Service (USFS) managers have advised patriotic revelers to find alternatives to personal fireworks to avoid starting a forest fire.
In New Mexico, a release from the USFS suggested red, white and blue silly string among other ways of celebrating like noisemakers, glow sticks or an outdoor movie.
“Remember, firefighting professionals are usually busy and stretched thin during Fourth of July week. By limiting unwanted sparks due to fireworks, campfires, and BBQs; everyone can do their part to prevent human-caused wildfires this summer,” the Thursday release urged.
But some environmentalists cried foul over the USFS advising people to use the non-biodegradable plastic Silly String that comes from an aerosol can, and some places have bans on the messy toy.
Los Angeles in 2004 banned its use on Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween night, because partygoers were using the empty cans as projectiles and many were left littering the streets and clogging gutters.
Towns in Massachusetts and Alabama also have adopted ordinances restricting the use of the string, pointing to problems during special events.
In one New York town, firefighters who participated in a parade complained that the string was damaging the paint on their trucks.
“We have to be more vigilant about the chemicals in ‘everyday’ things,” Rebecca Sobel of WildEarth Guardian told the Associated Press. “Maybe the Forest Service should have known better, but it’s also hard to know what chemicals some products contain.”
George Ducker, a spokesman for the State Forestry Division, said in a statement that the department isn’t urging people to spray Silly String into the forest.
“These are alternatives for children and young people to do in lieu of fireworks in their neighborhood or on their property,” Ducker said. “That way we’d like to keep things contained to your property and your neighborhood. We’re certainly not advocating folks go out into the forest and, you know, shoot off Silly String.”
He added: “That includes but is not limited to the restricted use of fireworks, properly disposing of garbage in garbage bins, maintaining quiet hours and cleaning up after camping or day-use activities.”
Some areas of New Mexico, Colorado, San Diego and Salt Lake City have also decided to trade their professional fireworks displays for drone shows because of the risk of fire and air pollution.
“As temperatures rise and fire danger increases, we must be conscientious of both our air quality and the potential for wildfires,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a news release, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.
“The summer holiday shows are a mainstay for Salt Lakers, and we’re excited about adapting to new technology which will provide a safe alternative for our residents and visitors.”