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US Forest Managers Encourage Alternatives to Fireworks Amid Wildfire Concerns

by Gabriel Martinez
5 comments
wildfire concerns

In an effort to prevent wildfires, U.S. Forest Service managers in drought-stricken areas of the Southwest are urging people to consider replacing traditional fireworks with safer alternatives this Fourth of July. They recommend using glow sticks, noisemakers, and cans of red, white, and blue Silly String instead. However, not everyone agrees with this suggestion.

While acknowledging the importance of discouraging fireworks during escalating wildfire risks, some environmentalists find it ironic that federal land managers would propose using aerosol cans of sticky party string in natural settings.

Recent weeks have seen regional forest officials and the New Mexico State Forestry Division issuing public service announcements promoting alternative celebration options to reduce human-caused fires. Their advice aligns with similar recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association and American Red Cross chapters in various states.

George Ducker, a spokesperson for the State Forestry Division, clarified that these alternatives are intended for children and young people to enjoy within their neighborhoods or on their own properties. He emphasized that the aim is to contain such activities and discourage venturing into forested areas to use Silly String or other substitutes.

However, if individuals do choose to celebrate with Silly String, the Forest Service requests that they adhere to the principle of “Leave no trace.”

Regardless of the chosen celebration methods, it is essential to follow the rules and regulations, especially when on national forest land. John Winn, a spokesperson for the federal agency, emphasized the need to comply with restrictions on fireworks usage, proper disposal of garbage, observing quiet hours, and cleaning up after camping or day-use activities. The responsible cleanup of spray streamers aligns with these guidelines.

Although aerosol party streamers, such as Silly String, have been available since the 1970s, the specific ingredients are proprietary information held by manufacturers. Generally, the string consists of a polymer resin, a foaming agent, a solvent, coloring, and a propellant to release the contents from the can.

Some local authorities have restricted the use of party string due to associated issues. For instance, Los Angeles banned aerosol party streamers on Hollywood Boulevard during Halloween in 2004 because the empty cans were being used as projectiles and littering the streets. Similarly, towns in Massachusetts and Alabama have implemented ordinances to limit string usage, citing problems during special events. Firefighters in one New York town complained that the string was causing damage to their trucks’ paint during a parade.

Rebecca Sobel from the organization WildEarth Guardians pointed out that party string is just one example of numerous seemingly harmless products that permeate our daily lives. Sobel emphasized the need for greater vigilance regarding the chemicals present in everyday items. She also highlighted recent reports on “forever chemicals” found in firefighting foam and other common products, urging consumers to be more aware of potential threats. Transparency from regulatory agencies and personal responsibility in reading product labels are crucial in this regard.

Certain consumer product sources state that party string is not biodegradable, and while many cans are labeled as non-toxic, the string can cause damage to vinyl surfaces or the clear coat on vehicles. The labels also suggest seeking medical attention if ingested, as some ingredients may contain gastrointestinal irritants that can affect both humans and pets.

According to Madeleine Carey, WildEarth Guardians’ Southwest conservation manager, party products like Silly String, along with mylar balloons, noisemakers, and glitter, are extremely harmful to forests and wildlife. Therefore, they deem it inappropriate to use such items at national forest recreation sites.

The primary goal for state and federal forest managers is to prevent human-caused wildfires. Despite some regions experiencing record snowfall and a wet spring, there remains uncertainty about whether the monsoon season will effectively mitigate fire risks. Consequently, the messaging promoting alternative celebrations will persist, as vegetation can quickly become highly flammable during a few weeks of hot and dry weather.

Since the beginning of the year, over 22,000 fires have burned nearly 1,000 square miles (2,590 square kilometers) in the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wildfire concerns

Q: Why are US forest managers encouraging alternatives to fireworks?

A: US forest managers are urging alternatives to fireworks due to escalating wildfire concerns, especially in drought-stricken areas. The aim is to prevent human-caused fires and reduce the risk of wildfires during celebrations.

Q: What alternatives are being suggested instead of fireworks?

A: Instead of fireworks, US forest managers recommend using safer alternatives such as glow sticks, noisemakers, and cans of red, white, and blue Silly String. These options provide a festive atmosphere while minimizing the risk of starting wildfires.

Q: Why are some environmentalists objecting to the suggestion of using Silly String?

A: Some environmentalists find it inappropriate to suggest using aerosol cans of Silly String in natural settings due to concerns about the impact on the environment. They argue that it is contradictory to promote a product that may have negative consequences for forests and wildlife.

Q: Are there any restrictions or guidelines for using alternatives like Silly String?

A: While using alternatives like Silly String is encouraged, it is important to follow the rules and regulations set by state and federal forest managers. This includes ensuring that activities are confined to personal property and neighborhoods. Additionally, responsible cleanup and adherence to the principles of “Leave no trace” are expected.

Q: Are there any potential risks or drawbacks associated with using Silly String?

A: Silly String, while generally labeled as non-toxic, can damage vinyl surfaces or the clear coat on vehicles. It is also not biodegradable, which raises concerns about environmental impact. Ingesting Silly String can pose health risks, and some ingredients may contain gastrointestinal irritants. Therefore, caution should be exercised when using Silly String or similar products.

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5 comments

NatureLover123 July 1, 2023 - 6:30 pm

i’m all for protecting our forests and wildlife, but using silly string or any other party stuff out in nature sounds like a bad idea. there must be safer and more environmentally friendly options. let’s be mindful of the impact our celebrations have on the environment.

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EcoWarrior23 July 1, 2023 - 10:31 pm

seriously? silly string in nature? that’s just ridiculous. i get that they wanna prevent wildfires but there has to be better alternatives than that. we should be more responsible with the chemicals in everyday products. it’s scary how much harm they can cause.

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FireLover86 July 2, 2023 - 4:16 am

omg i love fireworks they so pretty!!! but i guess it makes sense to use other stuff if it helps stop fires. silly string tho? lol who thought of that. seems kinda weird to use inna forest. but whatever floats ur boat i guess.

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SafetyFirst July 2, 2023 - 8:32 am

it’s great that forest managers are raising awareness about wildfire risks and suggesting alternatives. safety should always come first. let’s follow the rules, be responsible, and have a fun and safe Fourth of July without putting our forests and communities in danger.

Reply
PyroManiac99 July 2, 2023 - 2:09 pm

fireworks forever!!! no way i’m giving up my fireworks for glow sticks or silly string. i know there’s a fire risk but come on, it’s the Fourth of July! gotta have those big booms and pretty lights. just be careful and clean up after, that’s all.

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