Sparks are flying throughout Arizona as a controversial bill legalizing the sale of fireworks, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed this past spring, is slated to go into effect.
House Bill 2246, which passed May 10 of this year, legalizes the sale of “non-aerial” fireworks for the first time in Arizona. Non-aerial fireworks include sparkling wheel devices, ground sparkling devices and ground-based sparklers. Wire stick sparklers, smoke devices and party poppers have always been legal.
The bill will be in effect starting Dec. 1.
Although fireworks can now be sold in Arizona, many cities have been scrambling to create ordinances prohibiting the use of fireworks within their limits. The law allows counties to ban the use of fireworks only during times of high fire danger.
Jim Wheeler, Flagstaff Fire Department (FFD) deputy chief, provided a spreadsheet listing more than 30 cities and counties that have heard proposed ordinances to ban fireworks. At least nine have adopted such an ordinance. Wheeler said Flagstaff has officially prohibited the use of fireworks within city limits.
“The new state law requires the fire marshall of each city to develop rules and prohibit the use of fireworks on state land,” Wheeler said.
Breaking the law will result in a $1,000 fine.
According to Bob Barger, Arizona state fire marshall, the three state universities are considered state property and therefore prohibit the use of fireworks. However, he said it is unclear how sales will be regulated on campuses.
“We can’t really say what the use [of fireworks] on university property will be, but as far as sales go, no one can regulate the sales,” Barger said.
Hypothetically, Barger added, firework merchants are allowed to set up stands on campuses under the new bill. But because students are not legally allowed to use them, the merchants may not find it economically viable to do so.
“It depends on the citizens living in Arizona to determine whether they’re going to buy them or not,” Barger said.
A resident who uses fireworks illegally is financially responsible for any damages under Flagstaff’s ordinance.
“A person who uses, discharges or ignites permissible consumer fireworks … is liable for the expenses of any emergency response that is required by such use, discharge or ignition,” states Flagstaff Ordinance No. 2010-38.
Firework retailers will also have to abide by certain restrictions. Flagstaff’s new ordinance provides strict rules retailers must follow. All fireworks vendors are required to post a sign at the register informing customers of the restrictions on firework usage — including being at least 16 years old to buy and possess fireworks and prohibiting use within city limits. In addition to the sign, vendors must provide a flier to consumers stating these rules. Retailers are required to obtain a permit through the fire prevention department to sell “non-aerial” consumer fireworks. Fireworks vendors who intend to have a structure in which to sell must pay $197 for a temporary permit, or $1,453 for a permanent structure permit.
All of these rules are bound by law; infractions are considered a class 3 misdemeanor — punishable by a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
Barger noted the industry has been pushing for this to pass for more than 10 years. Wheeler said the reason the bill was passed is it was heavily lobbied by the fireworks industry and is another way for the state to receive tax revenue.
“The benefits are more aimed towards a free enterprise market,” Wheeler said.
Arlyssa Watts, a freshman biology major, said she does not see the point in passing a law that allows the sale of fireworks but prohibits the use of them.
“I think it’s pointless,” Watts said. “There is no point in selling fireworks if you can’t use them.”
Barger said he believes only time can tell whether the passing of this bill will become an issue or not.
“It is one of those things that we don’t know what the impact is going to be because we’ve never had fireworks legal,” Barger said.
As far as safety goes, Wheeler said it is important to have adult supervision when using fireworks, and to not be under the influence of alcohol.
“You can’t just assume the risk [of using fireworks], because what you do can spread, and hurt others,” Wheeler said.