You wouldn’t know it by seeing all the fireworks tents that have sprung up at major intersections across the Valley, but fireworks aren’t legal in some East Valley communities.
It depends on where you live, when you want to set them off and what kind of fireworks you have.
Firefighters say the hodgepodge of city ordinances has created confusion, and that it requires a little homework to know if what you buy in your own community can legally be used there.
That’s especially true in Chandler and Tempe, where consumer fireworks are illegal. Yet there’s a state law allowing sparklers and so-called novelties that may seem very similar to items banned in those very communities.
Chandler continues to field calls about what’s being sold around the city, said fire Battalion Chief Brad Miller.
“Some of them are mixed, some of them are consumer stuff, some of them are strictly novelty,” Miller said. “You’ve just got to look at what you’re buying.”
Despite bans in Chandler and Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa and Queen Creek allow fireworks for short periods around July 4th and New Year’s Day.
The confusion over fireworks began in 2010, when the Legislature ended a longtime ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks. Lawmakers allowed cities and counties to restrict the use of fireworks — but not their sale.
Firefighters and advocacy groups fought the change because of the threat of personal injury or wildfires in a dry state. Firefighters now are trying to spread safety messages.
“What we want to do is say they’re here, so what do we do now to protect people?” Mesa Fire Captain Forrest Smith said. “The effort that we’re pushing is to say you’re using them, but the idea is that your kids are watching. Just like anything else, practice what you preach. Show some good safety practices when using them.”
That includes thoroughly soaking used fireworks before disposing of them.
Consumer fireworks that are legal — in some cities, at least — include ground-based sparkling devices such as spinning wheels. Arizona prohibits firecrackers and aerial devices such bottle rockets, roman candles and tube devices. A detailed list can be found at http://az-fireworks.com.
Firefighters say they haven’t seen a spike in injuries or fires since Arizona’s law changed. But the dry conditions typical of July can cause a fire to grow out of control rapidly. Miller said firefighters have seen fireworks spark blazes along wooden fences that quickly spread to neighboring houses.
In Mesa, firefighters responded to 17 fireworks calls around the Fourth of July last year, including some small grass fires and a minor facial injury.
Miller cautioned that terms like “novelty fireworks” can be misleading.
“A sparkler burns at around 1800 Fahrenheit,” Miller said. “Even as harmless as a sparkler might seem, it can cause some serious burns, and it’s considered a novelty item.”
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