Originally Published: February 25, 2014 8:09 a.m.
For the third year in a row, state legislators have blocked efforts to let local governments ban the sales of fireworks during times of high wildfire danger.
Rep. Karen Fann of Prescott has sponsored the bills at the request of rural fire and emergency officials, who say it's confusing when people can buy the fireworks at the same time they are banned from using them.
Friday was the last day for the House and Senate committees to hear bills that originated from their respective houses.
While local legislators' bills to create a memorial for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots and help Prescott cover the costs of the hotshot families' pension benefits made it through committees by Friday, Fann's House Bill 2224 didn't.
"Some members of the committee felt it was a restriction on people's right to sell fireworks," Fann said. "It did not get out of committee, which quite honestly is no surprise."
Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman testified in favor of the bill.
"This is again a typical fight between rural Arizona and America, and urban Arizona and America," Thurman said.
Indeed, all the yea votes came from rural representatives while all the nays were urban.
House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee members Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, Mark Cardenas, R-Phoenix, David Livingston, R-Peoria, Justin Pierce, R-Mesa and Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, voted against the bill, while Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, and Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, voted in favor.
In his testimony, Thurman listed numerous devastating wildfires the state has suffered in recent years, including last year's Yarnell Hill blaze that killed 19 of Prescott's Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Giving counties the ability to ban fireworks sales provides another tool in the toolbox to prevent wildfires, he said.
Some legislators asked if the bill's supporters want to outlaw the sale of barbecue grills, bullets and chainsaws next, Thurman related. Others asked him to name a devastating wildfire ignited by fireworks.
Fireworks were illegal in Arizona until 2010 when the Legislature and governor changed the law to allow certain kinds.
The law allows local governments to ban the use of fireworks because of wildfire danger, but does not allow them to ban their sales. The peak demand for fireworks during the Independence Day celebration usually coincides with the peak of Arizona's wildfire season.
Fann's House Bill 2224 would have allowed any county to ban the sale of fireworks when a federal or state agency implements first-stage fire restrictions anywhere in the county.
Fireworks, campfires and target shooting have all started wildfires in the Prescott region.