With wildfires raging across a bone-dry state, local officials are dousing plans for backyard fireworks displays over Independence Day weekend.
Ground-based consumer fireworks, which the state legalized last year, will be prohibited in the city of Tucson and in all of unincorporated Pima County. Oro Valley and Sahuarita are considering similar bans this week. And fireworks of all kinds are prohibited on federal public lands and state trust lands in Arizona.
Consumer fireworks are still allowed in Marana, although town spokesman Rodney Campbell said the town is discouraging people from using them.
Many deregulated novelties such as snakes, smoke devices and small hand-held sparklers remain OK to use in most cases. But fire officials advise extreme caution using any flammable device and urge residents to leave pyrotechnics to the professionals.
Glenn D’Auria, president of the Arizona Fire Marshals Association, said it’s tough to identify which fireworks and novelties are more hazardous than others.
“You can’t tell from package to package what they do,” D’Auria said. “The so-called hand sparklers, used the wrong way, they’re as dangerous as some of the ground sparkling ones.”
So fireworks this year are legal, but they’re banned, but some are allowed. It’s more than a little confusing.
With that in mind, here is your guide to navigating this season’s fireworks rules:
There are three basic classes of fireworks and fireworks-like devices.
These include anything that shoots into the air or detonates above the ground, such as roman candles or bottle rockets. They have been illegal in Arizona for years — with the exception of professional, public fireworks shows — and remain illegal today.
Non-aerial consumer fireworks
These are ground-based sparklers. Usually they spit fountains of sparks into the air and some spin on the ground while shooting out flames or sparks. These fireworks are temporarily banned in the county this week and permanently banned in the city.
These include small, hand-held sparklers, toy smoke devices such as smoke balls and novelties such as snakes, party poppers and drop caps. In most cases, these are still legal in Pima County and the city of Tucson.
IS IT LEGAL?
Devices where the portion that burns is longer than 10 inches are considered to be consumer fireworks, and are banned this year. Sparklers shorter than 10 inches are a novelty, and therefore unrestricted.
Also out this year are ground-based sparkling devices — some spin on the ground and emit flame and sparks, and others shoot fountains of sparks into the air. They can shoot sparks and flames as far as 10 feet, and smaller packages can shoot as far as larger ones.
A good rule of thumb for these devices comes from the warning labels. If a device says “Caution: Flammable” it’s most likely legal. Devices with more severe warning labels that say a device emits flame or sparks are likely to have restrictions.
Anything that shoots into the air is a no-go. Don’t use it.
Novelties may be legal this year, but they still generate concern from fire officials.
What they are: Sparking devices such as Morning Glories and wire sticks that emit showers of sparks.
Safety concerns: Sparklers can be deceptively hot. Their ends can burn at about 1,200 degrees which can easily cause burns or set dry clothing on fire. Deceptive spark patterns can also make users think a sparkler is used up when it’s actually just a lull in the action. These novelties should be held away from the body and plunged in water after use.
What they are: Smoke-emitting devices such as smoke balls, smoke cones and smoke candles.
Safety concerns: Smoke devices can get hot. They should be used outdoors only.
What they are: Snakes (black pellets that shoot out trails of ash), snappers and drop pops that spark when they hit the ground, and party poppers that explode into showers of confetti.
Safety concerns:Sparks may catch combustibles such as dry grass on fire. They should be used with caution, and only on concrete surfaces.
HAVE FIREWORKS YOU DON’T PLAN TO USE?
Store them in a cool, dry place far from heat sources or combustible materials such as gasoline. Use common sense. A backyard shed, for example, is a bad place to store fireworks.
Star reporter Polly Higgins contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Alex Dalenberg at email@example.com or 807-8429.