Fireworks sales called brisk; few fires reported - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Fireworks sales called brisk; few fires reported

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Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:00 am | Updated: 3:22 pm, Fri Sep 16, 2011.

True to their nature, fireworks stands burst onto the scene in Ahwatukee Foothills shortly after a change in state law lifted a ban on them, and in a flash, they were gone after the holidays.

The Phoenix Fire Department, which had warned that introducing fireworks would result in fires, attributed two December fires to fireworks.

The first, in mid-December, happened when a homeowner on South 82nd Lane in southwest Phoenix returned to find his entire backyard scorched. Fire officials attributed the grass fire to embers from fireworks being set off in an adjacent park.

Then on New Year's Eve, someone set the roof of an apartment complex on fire at 36th Street and Thomas Road, said Capt. Jonathan Jacobs, a fire department spokesman.

"Somebody took one of those big giant ground sparklers that are not supposed to be used and threw it on the roof of an apartment complex," Jacobs said. "We have the device that was used."

About 20 apartments had to be evacuated. The roof was damaged, but no one was displaced, he said. The incident is still under investigation.

There were no reported fires from fireworks in Ahwatukee Foothills, Jacobs said. Lt. Matt Giordano, a Phoenix Police Department spokesman, said he believes there were no citations issued for fireworks here, either.

Jacobs said each of the two incidents is believed to have been caused by fireworks that can be purchased but not used within the city limits. Either one could have been worse, and would not have happened if the fireworks ban had remained in place, he said.

"If you just change a few facts, like if we hadn't had some rainstorms, and all of the sudden it's a different deal," he said. "We are starting to see incidents caused by this, and it's caused by access."

Both Fry's and Safeway grocery stores opted to begin allowing the sale of certain fireworks in their Ahwatukee Foothills stores and elsewhere in the Valley. But soon after the end of New Year's weekend, the displays had been removed.

George Ebel, manager of the Safeway at 48th Street and Elliot Road, said the grocery's corporate office had agreed to provide space for TNT Fireworks displays.

"Sales were brisk, based upon what was left," he said.

Fry's representatives were not available for comment, but have said that fireworks displays could return around the Fourth of July.

Bill Latin, store director at Bashas', at 48th Street and Warner Road, said fireworks were not available at the local grocery chain. However, the store may have seen some unforeseen consequences of other stores allowing fireworks to be sold, he said.

Latin said liquor sales on New Year's were off by about 10 percent. He said it may have been because people bought fireworks, instead, he said.

"You only have so much disposable income," Latin said. "That's a huge trend. That's ‘the' liquor holiday: New Year's."

Ebel said he did not notice a similar trend at Safeway.

Prior to Dec. 1, the sale and use of consumer fireworks were illegal in Arizona. In May, Gov. Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2246, which legalized the use of ground-based consumer fireworks such as sparklers, spinners and fountains, but not rockets or aerial shells. However, the law also gave cities the option of restricting the sale or use of fireworks inside city limits.

Last month, the Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to keep in place the city's prohibition on the use of consumer fireworks. The use of consumer fireworks in the city is now a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to $2,500 in fines and six months in jail.

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