Arizona heads into summer 2016 with forecasts once again showing a potentially charring fire season ahead.
Local, state and federal agencies are doing everything possible to prepare for the upcoming wildfire season in an effort to minimize damage to our beautiful forests.
Despite routinely facing dry conditions and persistent threats of wild fires, the Legislature is about to make the job of preventing fires even harder.
HB2398, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Kern and strongly supported by House Speaker David Gowan, once again changes the guidelines and legalizes banned and dangerous fireworks to be sold out in the open in big-box retail stores.
Catastrophe will not be far behind.
In Scottsdale, thousands enjoy hikes through our nature preserves and mountain trails near and in our city. The McDowell Mountain Preserve is our diamond in the desert and encompasses more than 30,000 pristine acres, offering hiking trails and beautiful panoramas.
It’s bad enough that HB2398 legalizes fireworks that are much more powerful and dangerous that can shoot 60 feet into the sky and firecrackers that while popular, often send people to the hospital for injuries and burns. But the bill also removes an important national safety component that helps local fire departments safely regulate the display, storage and sale of these more powerful devices.
The bill repeals an important regulation from the National Fire Protection Association that mandates these particular fireworks are properly displayed in an area with proper separations, supervision, access and exiting. Without this important regulation, a big-box retail store could display these fireworks in a manner that does not take into account the dangers associated with these explosive devices.
The bill now requires that retailers be allowed to sell much more powerful multiple cake boxes and mine shells, which when ignited shoot into the air and result in larger explosions. They are fun to look at on a patriotic July 4 night, but in a retail store or local neighborhood they represent a grave and increased danger.
Each of the provisions increases the chances for fire and harm to Arizona residents. But together they represent a potential for grave danger to the people inside retail stores, neighborhoods and in our open forests.
That is why many firefighters oppose this dangerous expansion. Allowing the fireworks to be sold in retail stores with virtually no safeguards is a recipe for disaster. In 2014 alone, more than 10,000 people went to a hospital due to a fireworks injury. And according to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2011 fireworks caused 17,800 fires, including many in outdoor areas.
I hope legislators, especially those that represent fire-prone areas or are concerned about the safety of the people they represent, consider the real harm that can be done from the increased sale and use of these more powerful types of consumer fireworks. HB2398 is a danger to us all and senators should defeat this reckless legislation.
Jim Ford is the fire marshal for the City of Scottsdale.