With some organized fireworks shows being cancelled due to COVID-19, fire officials are more worried than ever about citizens unintentionally sparking blazes with their own pyrotechnics.
Bowie Fire Department Chief Marty Minnick was blunt when it came to his approach to illegal fireworks in his community.
“I will be cruising around in the brush truck. If someone is lighting them off I am going to videotape them, that way the sheriff department can come and give them a citation,” said Minnick.
Minnick said the Bowie Fire Department has already been called out to two fires sparked by fireworks. So far he has been giving out verbal warnings, but Minnick said the second time a fire is started people will be given citations – citations that carry a fine of roughly $700.
His department is called out to six or seven fires caused by fireworks around Independence Day annually, Minnick said.
“In these dry conditions even smoke bombs can start a brush fire, people just have to remember to wet the grass before using ground fireworks,” said Minnick. “Keep a water hose handy.”
San Simon Fire Department Chief Lucas Reynolds said he doesn’t know how many fires are started by fireworks, but the dry environment is definitely a worry.
“San Simon will not be setting off fireworks this year due to dry weather,” said Reynolds.
Dale Hadfield, Willcox Chief of Public Safety said many people don’t fully understand the complicated relationship between illegal and legal fireworks.
“Many people don’t realize or overlook the fact that aerial fireworks are illegal as well as any kind of fireworks that explode,” said Hadfield.
Hadfield said this year the City of Willcox will go forward with its official fireworks celebration on Saturday.
He’s anticipating rain sometime over the weekend and over the past several years brush fires caused by fireworks have not been a large problem because of rain. Nonetheless, brush fires caused by fireworks is a constant worry.
“We will always be worried about it because the simple fact is we will always be pretty dry,” said Hadfield. “We don’t want to burn down half the county because someone didn’t want to do the right thing and obey the laws and take precautions.”
Sunsites Fire Department chief Alan Hershey said the Sunsites Fire Department will not be holding an official fireworks display because of Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order Monday prohibiting large gatherings.
“We had planned to, but in light of the governor’s request to not have groups of people gathered for public events, and staying consistent with Cochise County’s message, this year we will celebrate the Fourth differently,” said Hershey. “We are going to do it independently and stay home and stay in groups of less than 10 people. We aren’t going to do the fireworks to reinforce that message.”
Lightning, trash burning and charcoal cooking fires start numerous fires every year, but fireworks are always a hazard as well, Hershey said.
“The fire danger is quite high. There is kind of an infinite sea of dead grass and leaves that could easily be ignited by fireworks,” said Hershey.