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Wed, Oct. 23

Leave fireworks to professionals; local ordinances prohibit private use

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file photo

Local fire and emergency officials take on Fourth of July fireworks is straightforward: attend sanctioned celebrations and stay away from consumer fireworks that are a fire danger waiting to happen.

Prescott-area fireworks shows:

• Downtown Prescott, as part of the Fourth of July Celebration. Fireworks will go off from the parking garage;

• Chino Valley, as part of the town’s celebration at Chino Valley Community Center Park, 1615 N. Road 1 East;

• Prescott Valley, as part of the 20th annual Fourth of July Celebration at Mountain Valley Park, 8600 E. Nace Lane.

All are slated to begin at dark - approximately 9 p.m.

“There is no safe firework. They all go ‘Boom,’” said Prescott Fire Marshal and Division Chief Don Devendorf of what he said are always hazardous devices whether they are legal to purchase or not.

In Prescott and Prescott Valley, city ordinances prevent the use of consumer fireworks in the city limits. The only thing people are permitted to ignite on their property on a year-round basis are federally deregulated “novelty” items: sparklers, snap caps, party poppers, glow worms, snakes and toy smoke devices, state law specifies.

Fire officials would prefer even those be avoided, or at the very least, used with extreme caution.

“Pay attention to manufacturer guidelines. If it throws sparks, or it burns, don’t light them around dead grass, put them on wood, or on a table or in the backyard,” Devendorf said.

Even those that are “relatively safe” can prove dangerous, officials said.

Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Assistant Fire Marshal Andie Smith recognizes the confusion over what is and is not allowed, particularly as state law allows the sale of consumer fireworks despite giving cities and towns the right to pass ordinances that prohibit their use.

State law limits sale to between May 20 and July 6 and Dec. 10 and Jan. 3, and limits use to between June 24 and July 6 and Dec. 24 and Jan. 3.

Adding to the confusion is the fact consumer fireworks – non-aerial devices such as cylindrical fountains, illuminating torches, wire sparklers and dip sticks – can be ignited in unincorporated areas of Yavapai County except when they are under fire restrictions, which is now the case, Smith said.

“I told you it’s confusing,” Smith said.

Such mixed messages are a frustration to Devendorf who suggests it makes no sense to him that any amateur would be legally allowed to ignite fireworks in a state prone to wildfires. At this time, Devendorf said, there are 26 wildfires burning across the state.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center Director of Emergency Services Robert Barth has witnessed the life-altering harm that can occur when someone with no professional expertise plays with fireworks.

The worst occurred at the turn of the millennium when Barth was a flight nurse in Las Vegas.

A man blew off his hand, and scorched his throat, while lighting homemade fireworks in a confined space.

“He made it, but the loss of a hand is a serious disability for the rest of his life,” Barth said, noting eye injuries are another common hazard of consumer fireworks.

His advice: bring a blanket to the Mile High Middle School on Fourth of July for the 9 p.m. fireworks show, part of an all-day celebration accessed with a $5 entry fee.

“I’ve never seen a town do it up for Fourth of July like Prescott does,” Barth said. “ … To me, there is nothing positive that comes out of homemade fireworks.”

For more information about the state law and local ordinances, visit the Central Yavapai Fire and Medical Authority website:

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