When it comes to fireworks, local fire departments chiefs say the same: Leave it to the professionals.
Although fireworks are legal to purchase, some may not be used in the state of Arizona or cities.
Thatcher Fire Chief Mike Payne said fireworks that can be shot into the air are illegal. Smaller fireworks such as sparklers and cylindrical fountains are legal. However, Payne said even sparklers are capable of starting a brush fire.
Pima Fire Department Chief Scott Howell said there are usually a couple of fires surrounding the Independence Day holiday. Last year, a fire started by an illegal firework lit the Gila River bed on fire and burned for two days.
“It’s definitely dry and I really am concerned about the fireworks. Pima is hosting a fireworks display, but I would recommend to people to leave it to the professionals,” said Howell. “It’s not the official fireworks that start the fires, it’s the unofficial fireworks that are shot off while everyone is waiting for the official fireworks to begin that starts the fires.”
Peter Ortega, Clifton Fire Department chief, said the most extensive damage he has seen done by fireworks resulted in people losing their home.
“Five years ago a house was set on fire during the parade,” said Ortega. “The house was a total loss.”
Acting Fire Chief for the Morenci Fire Department, Duane Turner, said he is especially concerned this year because there are no other official celebrations besides the official fireworks this year for Morenci.
“We are having a late monsoon season and we haven’t gotten any rain,” said Turner. “Everyone is getting their own. It is definitely a big concern.”
Turner said there are usually two or three brush fires a night around the Fourth of July near Morenci.
Ortega said there are usually two or three brush fires started by fireworks during the Independence Day holiday week. He said the community may use sparklers, but no flying or shooting fireworks are allowed.
Safford Fire Department Chief Clark Bingham said starting a brush fire with fireworks on Independence Day takes away other people’s enjoyment of the holiday.
“Brush fires are a constant danger to the public,” said Bingham. “We anticipate fires for our operations on the Fourth. We plan for them. We have to interrupt our show to put out the fires. Leave it to the professionals.”
Payne said every year during the fireworks display there will be a fire somewhere in the Gila Valley.
“About every year we get called out for a fireworks fire, it never fails. They’re not supposed to set off anything that will explode, but they do,” said Payne. “ You can buy them, but you can’t set them off.”
Like many other fire chiefs, Payne will ask local law enforcement to cite the persons responsible for starting a fire if he feels like the situation merits it.