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A discussion on the law on whether you can buy and use fireworks with Todd Harms.

Ted Simons: As we head into the 4th of July holiday weekend, firework stand are popping up all over the place. But just because you can buy fireworks does not mean you can use them. Here with more on that is Todd harms, assistant chief for the Phoenix fire department. Good to have you here.

Todd Harms: Good evening
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. Let's talk about the law here regarding fireworks. What's changed?

Todd Harms: You know, for the last few years, there's been a lot of lobbying to allow fireworks sales in the state. The fire service side has been against it, but this past year it passed that fireworks sales in the state of Arizona became legal. Then it came back to the individual cities on -- that they can sell fireworks in the cities, but can you use them in the city. So the city of Phoenix, the council voted that the sale portion of it goes through, but it's illegal to use the fireworks in the city of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: And what kind of fireworks are we talking about here?

Todd Harms: You know, I think when most of the time we talk about fireworks, people think of bottle rockets, and the kind of fireworks where there's the small M-80s or something like that. The fireworks that are legal to sell in the city cannot fly into the air, they have a radius as far as how much sparks can go out, how big they can be. So most of them are on the ground, but they do provide sparks all in that area right on to the ground.

Ted Simons: So like little cone things, counsel fountain things, and the sparklers.

Todd Harms: Exactly. All of that is legal. To be sold in the state.

Ted Simons: To be sold in Phoenix, but not to be used in Phoenix. What if someone does use them? What kind of penalty are we talking about here?

Todd Harms: If someone is caught using fireworks in the city of Phoenix, it's a class one misdemeanor. That is -- carries problem a $2500 fine, and up to six months in jail.

Ted Simons: If you catch them.

Todd Harms: If you catch them.

Ted Simons: And would that I have to ask, do you -- are you going to be all hands on deck coming up this weekend? Will extra staff be on hand?

Todd Harms: Well, it's interesting you ask that. One of our concerns that we have is that there's two times of the year, January 1st and the 4th of July are our traditionally busiest days of the year. Over this past year, just since the beginning of the year, we have seen just a steady rise of calls, just normally in the system. April was the busiest month ever for the Phoenix fire department in call volume. So going into the 4th of July, one of the concerns we have is just that we've already seen a trend of calls going up. Our thoughts are that we're going to have additional calls that are related to fireworks. Due to the budget and where we're at today, we will staff the city at a normal staffing level with some contingency plans that will fall into place. But as far as additional staff, we just don't have the revenue to add additional companies right now.

Ted Simons: And I would imagine you are expecting more injuries, more damage in some way, shape, or form this weekend.

Todd Harms: You know, that's -- and then across the valley all the fire departments work together. Some of the cities it's legal for them to use the fireworks. Kind of our stance has always been on two sides. There is an injury hazard that goes along with fireworks, and then there's the fire hazard that goes along with them. We met with the county hospital, with the burn unit today, and talked to them about injuries. What do they see type stuff. It was interesting what they see a lot is with teenagers. Probably the number one category as far as injuries and burn injuries. And the next category after that were small children. And then adults after that. But the thing they said that stood out to me was that the injuries they see there are life-altering injuries. People lose fingers, there's usually some type of scarring, they said 30 to 40% of the injuries they'll see, and they expect this weekend to be a big weekend for them, is just from sparklers. And if you think of a sparkler, it burns at 2,000 degrees. So a lot of it is the sparkler, the stick now is red-hot. We've all seen those before. Now someone is touched with that, and it cause as third degree burn in that area that has to be cleaned and causes a scar for life.

Ted Simons: The industry, the fireworks industry says related injuries to fireworks, they say it's down. 90% in the last 20 years. That's the information they have on injuries. Does that ring true with you? And if so, is there -- are we worried a little bit too much in about this?

Todd Harms: We're going to see what effect it has on us. My own experience is that I grew up in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, the sale of fireworks was everywhere. And so come this time of year, you would see stand just like we have here on every corner there's a stand with fireworks on it. I don't think there was anybody back there that didn't have a story about fireworks. And something that happened -- either was a really close call for them, or that there was somebody or somebody that got injured. So for us here, we're going to look at the statistics and see, and we've already had from January 1st when the fireworks first went on sale, we've had a couple of fires that were caused directly related to the fireworks and the use of fireworks.

Ted Simons: OK. And real quickly, again, got to watch the kids around water, because this is the time of year for that concern.

Todd Harms: Oh, it is always going on. We've lost four kids in the city of Phoenix alone already this year. If there's -- there's just a couple things, number one as you said, watch those kids around water, and have some barriers between the pools and your house.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Todd Harms: You bet.

Todd Harms: Asst. Chief, Phoenix Fire Department

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