Print Leave extravagant fireworks displays up to professionals
Written by Trista Steers MacVittie   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 00:00

On Nov. 30, 2010, Arizona lawmakers passed legislation fire officials still scramble to defuse.

Arizona’s statewide ban on fireworks ended with the passage of House Bill 2246 allowing residents to purchase and use “consumer fireworks.” This type of firework contains limited amounts of pyrotechnic composition and is designed to create visual and audio effects by way of combustion, according to the bill’s language.

Larson Newspapers Managing Editor Trista Steers MacVittieConsumer fireworks are generally limited to the small stuff — sparklers, smoke bombs and the like.

The bill specifically excludes fireworks that rise in the air to explode or leave the ground at all. Roman candles, bottle rockets, sky rockets, jumping jacks and torpedoes made the state’s no-light list by name.

Where I grew up, those are the fun ones.

Bottle rocket wars erupt on street corners, missiles continually shoot into the air and Roman candles launch all night long.

In Wyoming, fireworks are illegal every day of the year except July 4.

Any Joe off the street can walk into one of several fireworks stores that set up shop every year in June and purchase items we see the city of Cottonwood and Cliff Castle Casino launch into the air.

Granted, Wyoming is much more lush than Arizona, but even there fireworks get out of hand.

I remember one Fourth of July when a friend from high school inadvertently started a field on fire with a bottle rocket. The fire department — which consists only of volunteers — was called, and by the time firefighters arrived they found a brush fire to contend with.

Another year, the hedge behind what was then my grandparents’ house sparked but fizzled out before the flames grew.

Three years ago when I visited for the holiday, a drainage ditch took a rocket to the cattails and ignited. The neighbors pulled their garden hoses out spraying the flames until the firefighters arrived.

Every year, something catches fire. The difference is, however, we’re dealing with a much different environment in Arizona, and particularly this year.

The Verde Valley has yet to see a monsoon storm, despite the official start of the season June 15, and the smallest spark could cause real damage.

When a small fire starts in Wyoming, it doesn’t spread quickly. The vegetation is green and water from melting snow at 11,000 feet elevation is still pouring off the mountains. Does this make fireworks safe even there? Probably not, but the risk of fire isn’t the same.

If everyone responsibly used fireworks, the law as it stands wouldn’t be an issue. The problem is not all Arizona residents make the right decisions when it comes to lighting things on fire or blowing them up — they get a little too excited.

This year, with fire danger a real risk, leave the light shows up to the professionals.