Phoenix firefighters, police and Mayor Phil Gordon gathered Wednesday morning to encourage residents to avoid the dangers of lighting their own fireworks and leave the show up to the professionals.
“Fourth of July is coming in just a few days and this year is unique because there are legal fireworks that can be purchased in Arizona,” said Capt. Scott Walker of the Phoenix Fire Department. “With this dynamic we really want to inform people about the dangers involved with fireworks use for people and children and also in our state that currently has so many fires going on. We really have a lot of issues we want to cover.”
The fire department warned of two main issues with fireworks: They can lead to fires, and can also lead to injuries.
Walker said about 7,000 injuries occur each year from firework use. Teenagers and children are especially likely to be injured. He also said fireworks cause about 22,000 fires and $42 million in property damage across the country each year.
In December the state Legislature passed a bill the makes the sale of fireworks in Arizona legal, but allowed cities to control which fireworks are legal to be set off within city limits. In Phoenix only sparklers, smoke devices and novelties are permitted. Any ground sparklers, sparkling wheels, explosives or sky rockets are prohibited in Phoenix city limits.
“We all know the dangers of fires,” Gordon said. “The state is literally on fire today. We know what this will do to our deserts, our buildings and our cities, yet today our Legislature allows it. They’ll be pointing the finger somewhere else when damage occurs this weekend but they all voted to allow this. Mark my words.”
The fire department demonstrated how quickly a sparkler can turn dangerous if the sparks get near dry brush or hair. The Director of the Arizona Burn Center, Dr. Kevin Foster, explained that one-third of all firework injuries they see are from sparklers.
“Most of the injuries that we see are the result of the proper use of legal fireworks,” Foster said. “Just because something is legal does not make it safe.”
Sgt. Trent Crump of the Phoenix Police Department said Phoenix police will be on holiday staffing over the weekend, especially looking out for drunk drivers. They encourage residents to use common sense when reacting to fireworks in the neighborhood.
“We’re encouraging people to use fireworks safely,” Crump said. “If you think people are using them improperly, call us. Because some fireworks are legal now we don’t want to be responding unnecessarily to calls, but if you think that somebody is creating a dangerous situation with the use of them and if you think it is an occasion where children are unsupervised, those are the kind of things we’d like people to call about.”
Crump said if they respond to calls where no damage has been done but illegal fireworks are present they will most likely use the situation to educate and just confiscate the illegal fireworks. This is the first year fireworks are legal, so Crump says they’re trying to take a common sense approach.
Both Phoenix firefighters and Phoenix police can issue citations for illegal firework use. A violation would be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. That’s not including any liability for damage incurred by the fireworks.