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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


County unwilling to play with fire

Mike Christy
Imaes from the Independence Day celebrations July 4, 2010 in Tucson, Ariz. Fireworks fallout ingited several spot fires on Sentinel Peak. (Photograph by Mike Christy)

While you can pick up Fourth of July fireworks at your local Walmart, you’ll have to leave the county if you want to set them off.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors has placed a temporary ban on fireworks until weather conditions improve.

The ban includes the commercial and personal use of fireworks. Those who violate the resolution will face a Class 3 misdemeanor and will be arrested and booked in either the Pima County Adult Detention Center or Pima County Juvenile Detention Center, according to a press release from the Pima Country Sheriff’s Department.

All requests for commercial permits for fireworks shows have either been denied or rescinded, according to the press release.

“”The dangers are too extreme, the stakes are too high and it’s common sense … to ban the fireworks,”” said District 1 Supervisor Ann Day. “”Even the slightest spark could start a fire right here in town.””

Day said she guessed the arrival of the monsoon would help lift the ban.

“”I guess if we really did have a hard rain Thursday or Friday we could lift the ban,”” Day said.

Day noted that it isn’t like people won’t be able to see fireworks in town. They just won’t be able to see them at the resorts or set them off themselves.

Capt. Trish Tracy, spokeswoman for the Tucson Fire Department, said the department is encouraging people to attend the approved fireworks shows that will be monitored by the department.

The “”A”” Mountain fireworks show will be the only legal fireworks display in town on the Fourth of July.

“”A”” Mountain will be soaked the day before the display, according to Fire Prevention Capt. Jeff Langejans.

“”That prevents us from having any runaway spot fires or anything,”” he said.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department will have a task force around the Fourth of July in order to enforce the ordinance, said Deputy Dawn Barkman, public information officer for the Pima County Sherriff’s Department. The task force will comprise 15 to 20 people including special operations individuals as well as possibly deputies from the field. The task force will respond to calls about fireworks and if they find persons using fireworks or evidence that they have been, they will be arrested, she said.

“”If you’re talking about a situation where someone becomes injured as result of fireworks use, you are looking at more of a felony charge,”” Barkman said.

The JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort and Spa is required to hire a brush truck, which the Tucson Fire Department provides, he said.

The Starr Pass fireworks will be set off from a watered golf course, Langejans said. The fireworks at Kino Sports Complex will be done off of concrete and the fields will be watered, making the area “”virtually non-combustible,”” according to Langejans.

“”With those shows that are going on, everyone has an opportunity to view a nice show,”” Langejans said.

The Tucson Fire Department is also warning against buying fireworks.

“”We see the inherent danger not only with fires but to the kids,”” Langejans said. “”We have no control over business, the state level determined that they can sell fireworks in the city, but we do have control over what they can do with them.””

Langejans said, with the drought, the fireworks are a huge concern and the department is hoping people pay attention to the laws and don’t go off into the desert to shoot of fireworks, as those are the places with the most risk.

It’s a risk that becomes even greater if people don’t notify anyone of a fire for fear of getting in trouble, he said.

“”Not only are they (commercial fireworks) illegal but they are extremely dangerous,”” Tracy said. “”Anyone that chooses to use fireworks within the city limits can receive fines … if a person or animal is injured or a property is damaged then that’s a severe penalty.””

Undeclared freshman Andrea Aguiar said she thinks the ban is a good idea.

“”It’s really dry outside and just adding to the possibility of a fire is irresponsible,”” she said.

Aguiar’s family lives in Sierra Vista and had to evacuate because of the Monument Fire in the area.

The experience was scary for them, Aguiar said.

“”It was a mess,”” she said.

In addition to warning people against buying fireworks, Tracy said the Tucson Fire Department is also warning against sparklers.

The sparklers burn at about 1200 degrees Fahrenheit but are considered novelty items or a toy, even though they are dangerous, Tracy said.

Langejans said that, as a parent, he finds the sparklers concerning.

“”I just don’t like them because they are like little welding torches … I’ve seen kids that have gotten really bad burns from those,”” Langejans said.

While the monsoon may alleviate fire danger and lift the ban, it may also bring more hardships to those trying to recover from recent fire damage. According to Michael A. Crimmins, assistant specialist in soil, water and environmental science, areas that were previously not flood areas could be after being burned.

“”All these communities that are close to these fires may now be dealing with some severe flash flooding,”” Crimmins said. “”You got to be really careful.””

When rain falls on the ground that has been heated up, the soils have actually changed so it just turns into run off, Crimmins said.

According to Crimmins, the National Weather Service is very concerned about this, and when rain events occur will be more inclined to warn people in burned areas.

Many areas in Eastern Arizona affected by the Wallow Fire will be prone to flash floods and debris flows in rains lasting only 10 to 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

The Monument Fire, which has scorched more than 30,000 acres in Eastern Arizona, was 90 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. The Wallow Fire, also in Eastern Arizona and now  the largest in state history at more than 528,000 acres, was 77 percent contained as of June 26, according to reports from fire officials.

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