Cities move to ban consumer fireworks before new state law takes effect - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Cities move to ban consumer fireworks before new state law takes effect

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Posted: Saturday, October 9, 2010 3:00 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Dec 14, 2010.

Arizona's Legislature opened up the sale and use of consumer fireworks this year, but the East Valley's cities are moving to prohibit them before the new law takes effect.

Mesa and Tempe are the farthest along, with their city councils reviewing bans.

Several elected officials in Mesa slammed lawmakers for legalizing something that they believe puts the city at a greater risk of fire.

"I'm just stunned the Legislature once again didn't think through what they passed," Councilman Dave Richins said. "They don't have to provide fire service, so why should they care?"

Mayor Scott Smith said lawmakers thought it through, but they didn't care.

"I think they actually knew what was going on and they had a different purpose," Smith said.

The law kicks in on Dec. 1. It allows cities and counties to draft their own regulations or outright bans on fireworks use. But the sale can't be banned.

That provision triggered another round of jabs at lawmakers.

"This seems sort of absurd to me," Smith said. "So we can't prohibit the sale but we can prohibit the use? Sometimes I love our Legislature."

Mesa and Tempe reviewed their plans Thursday and will likely approve bans later this month. A Mesa survey of other Valley communities shows Gilbert, Chandler, Queen Creek and most other Valley cities are drafting fireworks bans. Under the law, the communities could still allow commercial fireworks.

Part of Mesa's concern is fireworks will be allowed in county islands within the city, as Maricopa County isn't expected to prohibit them. The city fears fires started in counties could spread to Mesa or the Tonto National Forest.

Mesa Councilman Alex Finter said he'd like to see some exceptions, as cities are allowed to create exceptions for certain times of the year such as the Fourth of July. He said many families have cherished memories and photographs of kids holding sparklers while responsible adults watch. He also questioned whether the city can enforce the ban based on what he's observed in his neighborhood.

"It's the Fourth of July about every other weekend," Finter said.

But Councilman Scott Somers, a firefighter, called fireworks incredibly dangerous, especially because they're made in countries that don't set standards for them.

He noted that days after the state law was passed this year, a person with fireworks accidentally ignited oleanders, which caused a neighbor's house to burn to the ground while killing a family dog.

"If you want to blow off your own hand, I don't care. That's your business," Somers said. "The problem with these sparklers in particular is they cause fires and they create damage to people whose property had nothing to do with the sale, the purchase or the use of these things."

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