Posted: Jul 5, 2012 12:46 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 5, 2012 2:16 PM
MISSOULA- The Fourth of July means fun and celebrations for thousands of people in Western Montana, but for a handful of workers, the 5th of July means a lot of hard and even dangerous work.
One of the Fort Missoula parking lots off South Avenue looked like a war zone Thursday morning with piles of fireworks, and mounds of trash left behind for someone else to cleanup.
For the past several years, that "someone" has been Pat Anderson and his crew, who have the contract for cleaning up the celebration.
But this isn't as simple as just running a street sweeper through. Anderson actually brings in a Bobcat to scoop up the mess, and even then he's constantly out picking up much of the garbage by hand to keep it from fouling his equipment, such as the burnt wires that used to be sparklers.
"Well it's just a matter of picking them up. The sweeper, you can't pick them up, other than by hand. It just clogs the sweeper, it's just a problem," Anderson explained.
The problem is the discarded fireworks aren't just paper easily removed. There's plastics, and metal parts mixed in. And none of that can be recycled. Anderson says to him it's not a question of not using fireworks, just having people pick up after themselves.
"I got kids, and we love fireworks. It's just a matter of picking up your own mess. I mean I don't mean too many of my friends that would just light and walk away. I mean this is all stuff that you should just take home. If everybody takes their mess we could clean it up in an hour, whereas it takes us four," Anderson said.
But it's not just the mess that's left behind, it's also the danger. For example, a live artillery shell or mortar round was left behind and crews say that's not only a danger to them, but to any kids that might run across it.
Every few minutes you could hear snaps and pops as the cleanup was underway Thursday morning and Anderson told us that there were live firecrackers going off under his equipment.
The cleanup is over, but it's a reminder that a trash sack might be a good thing to add to your fireworks shopping list for next year.