PUBLIC SAFETY

SAFETY GUIDE: Triple-digit temperatures expected in Salem this July Fourth weekend 

Update, Wednesday, July 3, 3:21 p.m.

The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for the Salem area and most of western Oregon beginning at noon Thursday through 11 p.m. Sunday.

“Dangerously hot conditions with temperatures 100 to 105 expected. Overnight temperatures will also be very warm and limit chances to recover from the heat, with lows ranging from the mid 60s to low 70s,” the warning said.

The latest forecast for Salem calls for a high near 93 degrees on Independence Day, 101 on Friday, 103 on Saturday and 104 on Sunday. Lows are expected in the mid-60s.

Original story below:

Dangerously hot temperatures are expected in the Salem area starting on the Fourth of July and reaching triple digits by the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency’s Portland office issued an excessive heat watch from Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening for much of the Willamette Valley, including Salem.

On Thursday, July 4, temperatures in Salem are forecasted to reach 94 degrees during the day.

Highs are expected to be near 102 on Friday, 104 on Saturday and 100 on Sunday, according to the weather service’s latest forecast for McNary Field.

Salem temperatures last reached triple digits in mid-August of 2023, when there was a string of four days over 100 degrees.

But it has been nine years since the area saw such temperatures this early in July. That time, Salem hit 100 degrees on July 2, 2015.

This is your guide on how to stay safe and follow the rules while celebrating a very hot Fourth of July.

Fire conditions

In addition to temperature, whether there is fire danger depends on the dryness of trees, shrubs, sticks and other “fuels” that can ignite flames, according to David Bishop, a meteorologist with the agency.

Bishop said conditions in the Salem area may not be dry enough for fires to be expected, but this week’s heat wave will raise the risk. One person flinging a cigarette or dragging chains along the ground could easily spark a fire.

“As we progress through the month of July, fire weather concerns are increasing,” he said. “People should be aware of what they’re doing and what could cause a spark that could lead to a fire.”

During Independence Day last year, there were two structure fires, four trash fires and 11 vegetation or bark dust fires in Salem, according to Joe Hutchinson, the city’s emergency manager.

Find information about how to prevent wildfires, including when burning debris, using equipment and cooking outside, on the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s website

Burning is temporarily banned in Polk County with the exception of campfires.

“Please ensure any recreational fires are less than 36 inches in diameter, away from any structures, and you have water on hand,” Polk County Fire District No. 1 said on Facebook. Officials announced the ban as major fires are already burning elsewhere in Oregon.

Officials announced the ban last week as fires were already burning in central and eastern Oregon.

The city of Salem and Marion County Fire District No. 1 haven’t issued burn bans, but that could change depending on weather conditions.

Last year, Salem banned fireworks and burning at the last minute on the holiday.

Fireworks rules and safety

When using fireworks, it’s important to watch for trees, shrubs and bark dust, and have water nearby, according to Hutchinson, the Salem emergency manager.

Then, put fireworks into a bucket of water for 24 hours before disposing of them. Sweep up any debris left in the street and drench it with water before putting it in the trash.

When throwing away fireworks debris, make sure it was properly extinguished and drenched with water. Don’t put firework debris or trash cans containing it near homes or shrubbery. 

After putting fireworks in water, don’t dump the water into the street, which carries it into storm drains that flow untreated into local streams. Once the water has soaked for 24 hours, it can be dumped in grass or gravel and the debris separated and discarded, Hutchinson said.

Retail fireworks such as fountains, flitter sparklers and ground spinners are legal to use without a permit from the state fire marshal’s office. Such fireworks can only be bought from permitted fireworks retailers and stands.

“Fireworks that fly in the air, explode, or behave in an uncontrolled and unpredictable manner are not allowed in Oregon without the proper permit issued by our agency,” according to the state fire marshal’s website. That includes sky lanterns.

Violating state laws related to use or sale of fireworks is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500. Fireworks will also be confiscated, according to Angela Hedrick, spokeswoman for the Salem Police Department.

“If the use of fireworks results in any damage to property or harm to another, then the user could face criminal charges ranging from criminal mischief or reckless burning to arson,” Hedrick said.

Fireworks aren’t allowed in city parks. 

Possessing or using fireworks is also banned in most federal and state lands, including parks and beaches.

Who to call

People should call 911 only for true emergencies, such as a fire, and not for less urgent concerns like illegal fireworks.

People should raise other fire-related concerns by calling the Salem Fire-Department’s non-emergency line at 503-588-6111.

People can also report illegal use of fireworks to the non-emergency line, according to the state Fire Marshal

Since that line is answered by 911 call specialists, Salem fire officials have asked people not to call about noise complaints to avoid slowing down the emergency call system.

Salem police don’t have enough officers available to respond to all complaints on July 4 and dispatch them on a priority basis, according to Hendrick.

“Residents should describe to the call taker the situation occurring, such as any fireworks being used recklessly, i.e., posing a danger to people or property. It is also important for neighbors to provide a hard address for the location (as opposed to a general area or presumption),” she said.

Anyone with questions about leftover, unused or unwanted fireworks can call the Oregon State Police non-emergency number at 1-800-452-7888.

People seeking information about shelter and other human services during the heat wave can dial 211 during business hours or go to 211info.org.

Cooling resources

The National Weather Service on Tuesday advised on Tuesday how to prevent illness during a heat wave.

“Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sunshine, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Do not leave young children and pets in unattended vehicles. Car interiors will reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes,” the agency said in its announcement of the excessive heat watch.

The latest forecasts and warnings can be found on the agency’s website.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division lists state rules related to preventing heat illness in the workplace in English and Spanish on its website.

The Kroc Center in Salem will operate a cooling center in “The Hub” community room from 1 p.m. to close on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Air conditioning, movies, cold drinks and activities for all ages will be provided for free. The center is located at 1865 Bill Frey Dr. N.E. and people can reach it by Cherriots route 23. No pets are allowed.

Ashley Hamilton, Chief Program Officer for the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency, said the nonprofit is still working on its “cooling approach for the upcoming heat wave.”

When extreme heat hits Salem, the agency opens its ARCHES day center at 615 Commercial St. N.E. for extended hours and dispatches outreach workers to high-density encampments. The agency last summer assigned outreach teams to give out water, Gatorade, cooling rags, hats, sunscreen and transportation to cooling centers. It also provided the same cooling items at its youth drop-in center on 1255 Broadway Street N.E.

This story was updated with information about cooling resources at the Kroc Center.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.