Fireworks Rules

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Certain consumer fireworks are legal in Arizona around the Fourth of July, but just because you can buy them doesn’t mean you can shoot them off. Brian Scholl, Fire Prevention Expert for the Phoenix Fire Department, explains the rules.

Ted Simons: You can buy fireworks at stores and temporary stands across the valley, but that doesn't mean that you can set off what you bought wherever you choose. Joining us is Dan Farren, a fire prevention specialist for the Phoenix fire department. What fireworks are allowed?

Dan Farren: It's really confusing right now. The state law says that you can actually buy fireworks but each city is allowed to regulate how you use them. City of Phoenix you can use any except the novelty ones, sparklers, party poppers, those things. Any other kind of fireworks in the city of Phoenix is prohibited.

Ted Simons: So they can be bought and sold anywhere in the County but they can't necessarily be used anywhere in the County?

Dan Farren: Correct. It's actually in the state.

Ted Simons: Okay.

Dan Farren: State law.

Ted Simons: What kind of penalties are we talking about? What if I shoot off a bottle rocket in my backyard?

Dan Farren: It's a class one misdemeanor, six months in jail, $2500 fine.

Ted Simons: How difficult is it to enforce these sorts of things?

Dan Farren: We actually have someone on duty 24/7 during this time of season plus the police department is also going to help us out.

Ted Simons: For licensing -- for fireworks sales and such, how much licensing, how much regulation, how much do we know about the fireworks stand on the corner?

Dan Farren: Oh, we know a lot. They come to our department. We go through a permitting process with them. We do an inspection. The companies giving them the fireworks have to go through a different process. Highly permitted.

Ted Simons: There are inspections?

Dan Farren: Yes.

Ted Simons: What are you looking for?

Dan Farren: Exiting the type of fireworks, make sure it's the legal type you can actually buy, where it is in the area. You can't have too many tents and canopies too close together. That's the stuff we look for. Fire extinguishers.

Ted Simons: Are there different penalties for different illegal fireworks?

Dan Farren: No, it's the same.

Ted Simons: Same penalty.

Dan Farren: Class one misdemeanor.

Ted Simons: What about the cost if that bottle rocket sets a fire or injures me or others. Financial responsibility there?

Dan Farren: Oh, big time. Basically, they would come after you financially plus we would still come after you and fine you for shooting off that firework.

Ted Simons: How often does it happen? Was last year the first?

Dan Farren: Last year was the first year. I believe it was three times we documented cases where fireworks actually caused a fire.

Ted Simons: As far as injuries?

Dan Farren: No injuries that I know of but structural damage.

Ted Simons: So there was structural damage. Were you surprised no injuries were reported?

Dan Farren: Very surprised. We were very concerned. You see throughout the country a lot of accidents happen.

Ted Simons: Why do you think you didn't see much last year?

Dan Farren: I don't know if it was new, people didn't understand. I think it's just the newness is the Ron we didn't have that many occurrences.

Ted Simons: On forest and state land, nothing is allowed.

Dan Farren: Nothing and including any city of Phoenix park that's having a festival. You can't even bring in the novelty items like the sparklers.

Ted Simons: When you say bring in, is possession itself a penalty?

Dan Farren: Correct. Not so much a penalty with the novelty but the parks want you to sit back, enjoy the events, and let the professionals take care of it.

Ted Simons: Last year there was a lot of concern that there would be fires, injuries, people would set off fireworks that they weren't suppposed to set off. How did you prepare last year, how are you preparing any differently this year?

Dan Farren: We ramped up hard last year on making sure these places were permitted and this gave us another basically six months because they can do it around New Year's Eve as well. So we had another six months to make sure we went to every single site including commercial like Wal-Mart, Sam's club, those places that also sell fireworks, to make sure everyone in compliance. The signs say even though you can buy it you can't use it in the city.

Ted Simons: That was last year?

Dan Farren: And this year.

Ted Simons: Is there a different focus this year considering the results last year? You think last year was just a fortunate situation?

Dan Farren: We're hoping last year -- we get it out to the public well enough how dangerous fireworks are, even the consumer stuff, the novelty stuff. Hopefully people understood it's not worth it. Sit back, go to a show, enjoy it, let the professions take care of it.

Ted Simons: Yet there was so much concern, so much gnashing of teeth, yet there was so little in the way of consequence that maybe there's an overreaction going on here. Maybe people, fireworks aren't that dangerous, at least these kinds of fireworks. How would you respond?

Dan Farren: A house could catch fire and the fireworks that may have started it is gone by the time we dot investigation. Or might be a little fire that we just put out. We actually don't know how many fires actually start from fireworks but if you look throughout the country about how many instance happen because of fireworks, there's a lot of it out there.

Ted Simons: Families thinking, let's go get some sparklers or little caterpillar things -- what's your response?

Dan Farren: My advice is don't use them at all. Just go -- we have great celebrations here in the city of Phoenix. We have a great one at the park. Go there, have fun, play around, watch the big fireworks in the sky, and be as safe as possible. If for some reason you feel like you want to have a sparkler or have a smoke bomb or something like that, which are the novelty items that you can use, do it safely. Make sure you have a bucket of water. We say put a bucket of water, put the sparkler in the bucket of water. That will extinguish it or same thing with like a snap cap or something like that. But the best advice is just not to do it at all.

Ted Simons: Good stuff. Good luck on Wednesday.

Dan Farren: Thank you.

Brian Scholl:Fire Prevention Expert, Phoenix Fire Department;

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