Thu, Sept. 19

Cottonwood to ban use of fireworks

Ground based fireworks, permitted under the law effective Dec. 1 were on display as the Cottonwood Council considered their ban.

Ground based fireworks, permitted under the law effective Dec. 1 were on display as the Cottonwood Council considered their ban.

COTTONWOOD - The Cottonwood City Council didn't need much convincing to see the need for a ban on the use of consumer grade "permissible" fireworks in the city, since the area is already threatened with fire danger in the best of times.

But, legislative H.B. 2246 this year permitted the sale of the ground-based pyrotechnics has some issues the town will have to deal with, regardless of a ban.

Cottonwood Fire Marshal Rick Contreras explained to the board during a work session Tuesday that the law allows a city or town to restrict the "use" of the fireworks permitted by the new law within the corporate limits. Even so, a city may not prohibit their "sale." Contreras says that means Wal-Mart, Home Depot will have displays and there will likely be a fireworks tent at the open sales lot across from Denny's.

The ground-based "permissible" fireworks are typically limited to less than 200 grams of pyrotechic material. The law does not allow airborne rockets, says Contreras.

The council was also worried that, even though the fireworks and sparklers may be purchased by people 16-years and older, the law does not limit the minimum age of a sales person. That separate restriction will be included in Cottonwood's own code, also 16 years.

There is a technical question in terms of sparkers. While they are included among "permissible" fireworks in the Arizona code, a national edict lists them as a "novelty" item, with much more liberal distribution allowed. That is an issue that the city wants clarified.

Also cities and towns may ban their use within the corporate limits, there are not such limits outside a municipality, sometimes only a block away. Yavapai County may impose a ban for a specific reason, such as high fire danger, but not in the same manor as a city or town.

"What kind of message are we sending," asked Councilman Duane Kirby, "if we sell fireworks, but they may not be used here?"

Contreras and Fire Chief Mike Casson both suggested there would need to be ongoing education about the hazards of permissible fireworks. The permission allowed by the legislature means there will be more in circulation.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 22,500 fires were ignited across the country because of fireworks in 2008, including 900 house fires. They also caused injuries, 40 percdent affecting children younger than 15. Sparklers alone reach a temperature of 1200 degrees F., 300 degrees higher than the temperature to melt glass.

Chief Casson also predicted the state would see some restrictions on their use in the future, "There are going to be more fires and people hurt. I predict future legislation will once again outlaw fireworks. Now we must figure out how to limit their harm in the interim."

At this point, most cities and towns in the Verde Valley are moving ordinances ahead to ban the use of the fireworks permitted under the new state law.

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