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Bill would allow communities to ban fireworks sales

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PHOENIX – Saying it would help reduce the risk of wildfires, a state lawmaker is trying again to give cities and towns the authority to ban the sale of sparklers and other fireworks legalized by a 2010 state law.

Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, called it “a little silly” that Arizona communities can forbid the use of fireworks but by law must allow their sale.

“My analogy to that is telling a 15-year-old kid he can go into the store and buy a pack of cigarettes, but it’s not OK to smoke,” she said. “We all know how that will work out.”

Fann authored HB 2187, which would allow cities and towns to regulate the sale of consumer fireworks allowed in Arizona. It’s the second straight year she has sought the change.

Local officials in forested areas of northern Arizona are worried about the potential for fireworks to spark wildfires, Fann said, adding that she wants communities to be able to ban fireworks sales during dry periods.

“In Maricopa County, or Phoenix, if they want to sell them every day and shoot them off every week, I’m OK with that. I love fireworks,” Fann said. “If Prescott says these are the times we can sell them and shoot them off and those are the times it’s not appropriate because of high fire danger or whatever, they should have the right to do that.”

Prescott supports Fann’s bill because it would bring control of fireworks back to the cities, said Mel Preston, the city’s communications and public affairs manager.

Prescott has an ordinance that bans the use of fireworks at all times. It went into effect after an 11-year-old with a sparkler started a fire in a backyard that burned a tenth of an acre in June 2011.

“There’s some confusion to consumers because they can buy something they can’t use,” Preston said.

She said she didn’t think there would be a significant tax revenue loss if the bill were to become law because most fireworks are sold on reservations, which the city doesn’t have control over.

“And I think the potential loss doesn’t outweigh the safety benefit of not using fireworks,” she said.

In Sedona, which also bans the use of fireworks, City Attorney Michael Goimarac called that community’s proximity to national forest “a major concern.”

“It’s my assumption that we’d always be in favor of giving the cities the power to decide about fireworks,” Goimarac said.

Michelle Ahlmer, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, said her organization is only monitoring the bill right now.

“It’s always easier when there’s a state law to follow and no city gets to set up its own laws,” she said. “It gets more complicated when individual cities can set up their own times and regulations when something can be sold.”