Editorial: Mixed message is playing with fire
In this space in early March we told you about District 1 Rep. Karen Fann's efforts to bring Smokey the Bear - or the ideals he stood for - to Arizona.
Nearly two years ago lawmakers approved a bill legalizing the sale of fireworks across the state. Bringing to Arizonans what many of us grew up with over Fourth of Julys as children - namely public-use fireworks - was the goal, legislators said, despite what we heard about pressure from the fireworks lobby.
The problem is Arizona gets really dry in the summer months, and this can be a huge factor around July 4, if the monsoons come later than this traditional start of the rainy season.
No rain equals extreme fire danger in the deserts, grasslands and forests.
It is truly a mixed message too when people see the vendors selling fireworks from parking lot tents, but cities and counties can outlaw their use during periods of high fire danger. Fann's bill would have allowed local governments in counties with certain populations to ban the sale of fireworks, in addition to banning their use.
Amid opposition, she pared the bill back to local governments in Yavapai and Coconino counties that are in her district. It was a logical move, considering that both are forested areas in the state. Unfortunately, they do not include all of the similar lands.
Further, this month, Fann told the Courier that without more time in the session the bill is likely dead. The Legislature has already passed its 100-day goal for the session and a budget deal for 2012-13 is imminent.
Thus, we will again have to help people understand the law and why they could not and should not use fireworks that they can readily buy.
It is confusing, but preventing a spark that can lead to a wildfire is important. Consider that this month is the 10-year anniversary of Prescott's Indian Fire - a blaze that lapped at the city's south side and claimed more than one-half dozen homes and several buildings. Let's also not forget the monstrous fires that have left residents spellbound and homeless in the White Mountains.
"Only you can prevent wildfires," Smokey says.
We pray that no one tests fate this year, making our state's lawmakers look like fools.