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Tue, Sept. 24

Fireworks spark three wildfires

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>Central Yavapai Fire District Assistant Chief Charlie Cook holds up the remainder of a bottle rocket that started a brush fire Sunday.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>Central Yavapai Fire District Assistant Chief Charlie Cook holds up the remainder of a bottle rocket that started a brush fire Sunday.

People using illegal fireworks have sparked at least two wildfires in the Prescott region this month.

A 14-year-old girl was charged with criminal damage in one of the two fires after causing approximately $50,000 worth of damage to her grandparents' home and damaging a neighbor's fence.

In a third case, an 11-year-old boy started a wildfire when he was using legal fireworks without adult supervision.

"Ultimately, when someone gets hurt or the neighbors' house burns down because of an unattended child playing with fireworks, the parent will be responsible," Central Yavapai Fire Marshal Charlie Cook warned. Every fireworks package says adult supervision is necessary, he added.

Prescott's vegetation is in the same condition as the trees and brush that are burning in the record-breaking Wallow fire that so far has torched about 480,000 acres in eastern Arizona, Prescott Fire Marshal Eric Kriwer pointed out.

The National Weather Service has issued a red-flag warning in the Yavapai County mountains and other parts of northern Arizona for most of the day today and Friday, because expected strong winds and low humidities will create dangerous wildfire conditions.

Local fire officials are concerned that, with the state's legalization of certain "consumer"-graded fireworks last year, people will think they're legal to use in the Prescott region.

But that is not the case. Fire agencies throughout the region are able to ban fireworks locally, and agencies throughout the county currently have fireworks bans in effect. The bans are permanent in the Prescott and Prescott Valley regions, and temporary in some other parts of the county until sufficient monsoon rains reduce the wildfire danger.

Fireworks are permanently banned on all federal lands including national forest, Bureau of Land Management and Park Service lands.

The 2010 state law allows vendors to sell fireworks anywhere, even if they are illegal to use. So people will see tents popping up soon in Prescott and Prescott Valley to sell fireworks because Independence Day is approaching. Vendors can tell buyers if the fireworks are consumer-grade or higher and therefore currently banned for use in this county.

Novelty-labeled fireworks that don't shoot into the air, including smoke bombs and snakes, are the only ones that are legal to use anywhere in Arizona outside federal lands.

The fireworks that are legal unless local governments prohibit them still don't shoot into the air.

All fireworks that shoot into the air are illegal everywhere in Arizona, as are firecrackers. It's illegal to even possess them.

In the most recent wildfire sparked by fireworks on Sunday, fire officials haven't yet caught the culprit, but they did find a spent bottle rocket that is illegal to use or possess anywhere in Arizona.

Central Yavapai firefighters held that brush fire to about a quarter-acre. It was located along Old Black Canyon Highway between the Prescott Country Club and StoneRidge, only about a half-mile from homes. Luckily, it burned toward the nearby road.

If the bottle rocket had landed on the other side of Old Black Canyon Highway, it could have taken off and torched homes because of the strong winds that day, Cook said. A red-flag warning was in effect, he added.

The 14-year-old girl also started a wildfire on a red-flag day in Prescott Valley June 4, Cook said.

She was playing with a Roman candle and said a friend gave it to her. The fireworks ignited the grass in her yard on Acoma Lane and quickly spread to the deck of the house, the garage, the neighbors' fence and a utility easement before firefighters could get there to extinguish it, Cook said.

The 11-year-old boy started a wildfire in the area of Western Boulevard and Spouse in Prescott Valley May 2, Cook said.

He was home alone playing with sparklers when he threw a spent one on the ground. The heat from the sparkler wire lit the grass on fire and burned about one-tenth of an acre in his backyard before spreading to an open field, Cook said.

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