|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:00|
The Town of Camp Verde is on track to ban fireworks use inside town limits, though the sale of several types of fireworks will still be allowed under certain conditions.
The use of fireworks has long been banned across Arizona, but a new law passed by the state Legislature in 2010 made some types of fireworks legal.
The law took effect Dec. 1, allowing the sale of fireworks like sparklers, spinners and cone fountains. Several communities in the region have already looked at efforts to institute municipal bans on fireworks, citing concerns over increased potential for injury and a danger of fire in one of the driest parts of the country.
Camp Verde’s neighbors in the Verde Valley have already moved forward with bans on the use of these types of firecrackers.
It seemed clear Camp Verde will follow suit after a majority of the town’s elected leaders announced their intentions to vote for a total ban on the use of fireworks inside town limits.
The issue was discussed by council last week at a special work session, a meeting where topics can be discussed but no issues can be immediately voted on.
Barbara Rice, a fire inspector and spokeswoman for the Camp Verde Fire District, gave a presentation about the potential dangers of firecrackers.
Rice quoted nationwide figures from previous years including 8,800 firework injuries in 2009, 22,500 fires in 2008 along with $42 million in property loss.
A majority of the injuries were reported in the weeks around the Fourth of July holiday.
Rice said the injury rate was 14 times higher in areas that allow sparklers and other novelty fireworks than in areas that observed a total ban.
Rice said she saw three potential outcomes from the council: no ban, a partial ban or a total ban. Regardless of what the council will decide, any of the options will require an effort to educate the population about fireworks, both children and adults.
“Education must be a priority, no matter what we do,” Rice said.
It’s likely what the town will do is institute a complete ban. Of the six council members present last week, only Mayor Bob Burnside didn’t support a total ban. Councilman Pete Roulette was not in attendance.
“The last time I noticed, we were still in drought,” Councilwoman Norma Garrison said. “This doesn’t make any common sense to me.”
Rice said she believed the state passed this law because of the current economy, adding the fireworks industry had pushed for this for years, but now legislators were desperate for anything that could potentially bring in any amount of revenue to the state.
Camp Verde Town Marshal Dave Smith said it was likely fireworks would still be sold in town, especially by chain stores, which receive inventory through large supply networks.
While communities can’t stop the sale of the fireworks, as long as the retailers meet the requirements of the town’s building and zoning codes, Councilwoman Robin Whatley said she would be satisfied with following the example of other communities and having signs put up where fireworks were sold, reminding people they couldn’t be used in town.
Burnside said he thought a total ban equated to a knee-jerk reaction to the new law.
“We should focus on the education aspect of this,” Burnside said. “If we ban fireworks for safety, then why not ATVs and cars? Where does it end?”
Garrison said people were already accustomed to fireworks being illegal, and she didn’t want to vote for anything that could potentially put more of a strain on the area’s resources, especially in case of potential fires.
Town Manager Russ Martin said he would come back with a proposal to ban fireworks for the town to consider, but also added he tended to agree more with Burnside on the issue.
Martin said he was concerned about how a total ban could be fairly enforced and the potential to send juveniles through the system for what amounts to playing with sparklers.
Garrison reiterated the previous ban on fireworks and expected the upcoming decision wouldn’t be much different.
Regardless of what the town comes up with, including potential heavy fines for illegal fireworks use that requires an emergency services response, Rice said the fire district would also follow county fire regulations. That means if the county issues a ban on burning, fireworks use is also prohibited by the district.
The Town Council is expected to vote on the fireworks issue at a meeting in the near future.
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