Editorial: Ban firework sales to avoid catastrophe
District 1 Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, has been a busy little bee this legislative session. And one of her 17 bills would have her be a busy little bear - Smokey the Bear.
When lawmakers slightly more than one year ago approved a bill legalizing the sale of fireworks across the state, we are sure they did not realize the mixed message they were sending by also allowing cities and towns to ban their use during high fire danger periods.
Ban fireworks in the desert? While desert areas can see brush fires, wildfires and high fire danger are commonplace - if not an ever-present threat - in the forested parts of the state, such as in Yavapai and Coconino counties.
The Daily Courier's educational stories in 2011, when this area was entering fire season, worked to help people understand the law and why they could not and should not use fireworks. However, even during high fire danger times, it was ordinary to see massive retail tents selling banned-use products, including cone fountains, ground spinners and toy smoke devices.
It was confusing.
"Why would you allow sales but not use? That's like telling a child that it's OK to buy cigarettes, but they can't smoke them," Fann told the Courier recently.
Thus, her bill (HB 2361) would allow fireworks to be banned in these two northern Arizona counties - simply in an attempt to prevent fireworks from sparking wildfires.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary this spring of Prescott's devastating Indian Fire, we realize that Smokey the Bear's message of "Only you can prevent wildfires" comes with a catch. Fann has heard local fire chiefs and fire marshals' message: Selling fireworks and banning their use does not work.
We must allow cities and towns in these areas, and during fire-cautious times, to ban the sale and use of fireworks.
The bill's scheduled consideration Friday on the floor of the House was postponed; however, we cannot wait too long for lawmakers to fix what they have wrought. No fires in Arizona have happened as a result of fireworks - yet. But why test it?
It is not a matter of if, but when and how bad.