Originally Published: June 28, 2010 10:19 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Firefighters might rest assured that a bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed May 10 continues the ban on the sale of fireworks nearly four months past the Fourth of July.
Meanwhile, fire officials are working with municipal governments in Arizona to draft legislation to enable cities and towns to ban the private use of fireworks within their jurisdictions. Among other things, HB 2246, which goes into effect Dec. 1, allows the sale of "permissible consumer fireworks" to buyers who are 16 and older.
Charlie Cook, assistant chief of the community risk management division of the Central Yavapai Fire District, has supplied copies of a draft ordinance from the City of Scottsdale. He spoke to the Prescott Valley Town Council Thursday about the shortcomings in the new state law and the need for local ordinances.
The Scottsdale ordinance, if adopted, would ban the use of fireworks within the city limits, and subject violators to $250 fines.
So far, the cities of Scottsdale, Sedona and Paradise Valley have drafted ordinances, according to Jeff Kros, legislative director of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.
"We bring cities together so everybody can hear what everybody else is doing," Kros said.
A draft ordinance from the league should be available by the end of the week, according to Colleen Auer, deputy attorney for the Town of Prescott Valley.
"The plan is to see what they are proposing," she said. "Then we will kind of go from there."
Auer, Kros and Cook acknowledge that HB 2246 places the burden on municipalities to ban the use of fireworks. Cook said he would like to see all towns and cities in the county adopt ordinances to extend the ban on fireworks.
Cook said no fire departments in the state support HB 2246, while also explaining it provides some leeway to cities and towns. For instance, fireworks vendors must adhere to zoning laws and obtain business licenses from appropriate jurisdictions.
However, Cook said, "You are going to see, especially in unincorporated areas, people show up selling fireworks out of their truck or their van. I have seen that happen in other states."
HB 2246 provides less discretion to county governments to regulate fireworks. The bill states counties may regulate the use of fireworks within unincorporated areas "when there is a reasonable risk of wildfires."
Wildfire restrictions usually start in March in Yavapai County and remain in effect in July or August, when the monsoons arrive, Cook explained. The restrictions did not go into effect this year until mid-June because of a wetter season.
Even with the fireworks ban in effect, Cook said he finds violations once a year in Prescott Valley, which is only a part of the 165 square miles that the fire district protects.
"A lot of times people feel guilty that they are illegal to possess, and they call me," Cook said.
He referred to an incident about four years ago when crews found two trunks containing fireworks in the bedroom of a boy who lit his bedding on fire while playing with a lighter.
District crews investigate about 45 fires a year, Cook said.
"This year, we are at 40 fires, and we are not even through six months of the year," Cook said Monday.