'If you light it, we'll cite it,' fire officials say of fireworks
"If you light it, we'll cite it."
That's the fireworks slogan Prescott officials are stressing this Independence Day Weekend, and other fire officials in this region are sounding similar alarms.
They're trying to clarify what can be a confusing situation during the first Fourth of July holiday in modern history in which Arizonans can buy consumer-grade fireworks. The 2010 law took effect Dec. 1.
Fireworks that need a flame to work are basically illegal throughout this entire county and many other portions of Arizona. Violations in Prescott, for example, are Class I misdemeanors subject to as many as six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
There has been some confusion around the state about whether fire bans can outlaw the use of fireworks marked as novelty items, which have been legal for many years in Arizona.
But Arizona Fire Marshal Robert Barger told Prescott officials in an email that they can ban anything that could start a wildfire.
The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors has banned all such use of fireworks throughout the unincorporated parts of the county, Emergency Management Director Nick Angiolillo said, and he doesn't know of any municipalities that have not done the same.
Open flames from other sources including charcoal barbecues also are banned right now throughout the entire county and other parts of the state.
"We have seen the devastating effects of wildfire in our state already this season," City of Prescott Public Affairs Director Kim Kapin said. "Ultimately, we seek the public's cooperation in keeping the people, infrastructure and natural beauty of our city and our region safe from fire by being mindful of the law."
Fireworks always are illegal on state and federal public lands throughout Arizona.
Under the 2010 Arizona law that legalized fireworks with the "consumer" label, local governments can ban their use. Cities can ban their use year-round, while counties can do it during wildfire season.
But at the same time, the 2010 law does not allow local governments to prevent the sale of consumer-grade fireworks.
As a result, several businesses are selling the consumer-grade fireworks in the Prescott region right now.
Prescott Fire Marshal Eric Kriwer said most businesses have decided not to sell them because of the extreme fire danger. But many of those businesses still are selling the lower-grade novelty fireworks that have been legal for years.
At one of the two large tents set up to sell fireworks in Prescott, two 8.5x11-inch City of Prescott signs on the tent walls warn people that consumer-grade fireworks are illegal to use in the city at all times.
Right now, under stage II fire restrictions, however, even novelty-grade fireworks are illegal if it takes a flame to set them off.
Yet sales are booming, said Chandra Fernandez, who is operating one of the fireworks tents in Prescott. Sales are so good, in fact, that she's got to restock the tables today.
So where are all these people going to shoot off their fireworks?
Prescottonian Bill Logas said his family members will shoot off fireworks near Lake Meade like they always does. Only this year, he bought them in Prescott instead of Laughlin.
Another customer said he plans to shoot off fireworks illegally in Prescott Valley and the Ash Fork area.
"I'm a bit of an anarchist," he said.
Four places in Prescott are selling the fireworks. Fernandez lives in Sacramento and works for Western Frontier Fireworks based in Kansas. The other tent in Prescott is operated by Arizona Holiday Traditions based in the Phoenix area. The Prescott Food Store as well as Brohner Party & Party Supply are selling consumer fireworks, too. Brohner also is selling them at a tent in Prescott Valley.
Central Yavapai Fire Marshal Charlie Cook said he's at a standoff with Brohner's PV tent because it looks like it's selling consumer-grade fireworks that require a fire marshal permit, but the fireworks are labeled as novelty items.
"If something burns down, they're going to be liable anyway," Cook said of anyone who starts a wildfire with fireworks. "So if you're in doubt and it lights, don't use it."