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Tue, July 16

Editorial: Urbanites don't get fire danger

The third time didn't turn out to be the charm for Rep. Karen Fann's all-too-logical fireworks bill.

For the third straight year, the District 1 representative from Prescott proposed a bill that would allow communities to ban the sale of fireworks during times of high fire danger. And for the third straight year, the bill was shot down, this time not even making it to a vote of the Arizona Legislature.

Fann sponsored the bill, as she has in the past, at the behest of rural public safety officials who already face enough trouble in the pre-monsoon fire season. She also hoped the measure would alleviate confusion among consumers, who see fireworks stands popping up all over the state but often can be confused about where and when they can use them.

The vote, for a change, was not along party lines, but rather along territorial lines, as the urbanite members of the House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee, all from the Great State of Maricopa, voted against the bill, while rural legislators, representing communities who know what wildfire danger is all about, once again saw their efforts go down in flames.

The defeat came as no surprise to Fann, who suggested that those who voted against it "felt it was a restriction on people's right to sell fireworks."

And indeed it was a restriction, one just as apt as restricting the right of people to sell cigarettes to children.

Even the testimony of Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman was not enough to sway the committee members. A sensible discussion about a common sense way to reduce the threat of wildfires - which by the way are virtually unknown on 7th Avenue in Phoenix - turned ridiculous when lawmakers demanded Thurman reveal which if any wildfires were started by fireworks, and asked if he also wanted them to ban barbecues, chainsaws and bullets.

So, again, fireworks will be for sale but illegal for use in the most fire-prone areas of the state, once officials in those areas declare a ban, as they do most every year. It may not be nice to think that those metro lawmakers are unduly influenced by the fireworks lobby and the campaign donations available through them, but it's hard not to link those possibilities.

True, last year's Yarnell Hill fire that led to the deaths of our Granite Mountain Hotshots was not started by fireworks. But failing to realize that the next one might be, and that the Legislature had a chance - three chances - to eliminate that possibility, is a failure of foresight beyond comprehension.


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