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Phoenix bans use of fireworks, but considers allowing sales

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Posted: Sunday, December 5, 2010 11:00 am

Although a recent Arizona law legalized the use of some consumer fireworks in the state, Phoenix and many other Valley cities are opting to prohibit people from lighting them up within the city limits.

However, consumer fireworks vendors could be allowed to sell their wares in the city, if the City Council decides to grant permission at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Bobby Ruiz, an assistant fire chief and fire marshal with the Phoenix Fire Department, said the council is slated to consider two ordinances next week. The first would create zoning guidelines to govern where fireworks retailers could set up shop.

"What we're trying to avoid is selling them in or close to residential neighborhoods," Ruiz said.

The proposed guidelines also are intended to prevent dealers from clumping together in one location, he said.

The second ordinance would levy a fee on consumer fireworks dealers to reimburse the city for the fire department's time in inspecting retail outlets for safety and conformance with the law, Ruiz said. It would require dealers to install sprinklers, as well, he noted.

"We'd go out to check that the fireworks they're storing or selling are legal under state law," Ruiz said.

Prior to Dec. 1, the sale and use of consumer fireworks were illegal in Arizona. In May, Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2246, which legalized the use of ground-based consumer fireworks such as sprinklers, spinners and fountains, but not rockets or aerial shells, Ruiz said. However, the law also gave cities the option of restricting the sale or use of fireworks inside city limits.

Last month, the Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to keep the city's prohibition on the use of consumer fireworks in place. The use of consumer fireworks in Phoenix is now a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to $2,500 in fines and six months in jail.

"Fireworks are still illegal in the city of Phoenix," Ruiz said.

This week, city planning staff, fire officials and fireworks industry representatives conducted meetings in an attempt to hammer out a "reasonable middle ground" on the two proposed ordinances governing zoning and storage and display, he said.

Ruiz said the fire department does not support the sale of consumer fireworks in the city because of the risk of fire and injury.

"We don't think they should be allowed at all," he said. "In this dry climate it doesn't behoove us to have fireworks. We're only asking for problems when it comes to public safety."

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