Fireworks create headache for city officials - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Fireworks create headache for city officials

January 31st, 2022 development
Fireworks create headache for city officials

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler officials say they can do little about the large number of fireworks complaints they receive because a state law overrides any action they may want to take.

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan told the City Council on Jan. 13 his department received 126 calls for service related to fireworks on New Year’s Eve, though officers issued only 16 warnings.

Duggan said part of the problem is that it was a Friday, one of the department’s busiest days normally, in addition to being a holiday. Officers fielded a total 507 calls from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. that night and often had to prioritize some of them before sending out an officer on a fireworks complaint.

People complain for a variety of reasons, from the noise terrorizing pets to veterans who suffer from PTSD.

Councilman Matt Orlando requested the presentation after getting a number of complaints from residents.

He said officers sometimes arrived hours after a complaint had been made and found nothing when they arrived. No citations were given out on New Year’s Eve for fireworks violations.

“That’s really no different than any other city, certainly in the East Valley,” Duggan said. He said he asked officers in the South Mountain precinct of Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert and Scottsdale. He said all reported an exceptionally high call volume that night and none of them issued any citations for firework violations.

“This is a very challenging issue for every city across the state, … and a lot of that stems from the fact this is a state-regulated issue,” City Manager Josh Wright said. “Cities are, in fact, prohibited from doing a lot of the things that we that we used to be able to do around this issue.”

Under state law, businesses can sell fireworks and people can set them off only between three windows of time each year for Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July and Christmas/New Year.

The dates for sales and firing them are different. They can be sold from April 25 through May 6; May 20 through July 6 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 3.

They can be set off from May 4-6; June 24-July 6; and Dec. 24 through Jan. 3. Most fireworks set off outside of those dates are illegal. Some small fireworks are allowed to be sold and set off at any time of year.

Also under state law, no aerial consumer fireworks are allowed. So, outside of official permitted displays, any fireworks that explode in the air are illegal. And according to city officials, they are not sold in Chandler.

Duggan said most of the illegal fireworks set off in the city were bought in another state or in Mexico.

Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins said his department inspects all businesses that sell fireworks in the city and that outside of one bad actor years ago, they all carry only legal fireworks.

“We over the years have developed a very good working relationship with all the vendors,” Dwiggins said. “It is a good working relationship, because it is extremely confusing. I can line up 10 of them up right now, and you wouldn’t know what was legal and what wasn’t.”

Dwiggins said he is confident that none of the fireworks being set off into the air are coming from the vendors they have approved.

“These illegal fireworks are readily available,” Duggan said. “You can get them from other states, you can get them from Mexico, the fireworks are everywhere. They are prolific in our community.”

Mayor Kevin Hartke said he hopes to work with local state legislators to address the issue. He said he’d like to look at narrowing the window where fireworks are allowed or perhaps putting in a curfew so they couldn’t be shot off in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping.

“This is an item that we’re picking up as legal cities and towns and have it as an issue that we’re going to be hoping to work with our legislators, if indeed we can find some traction there,” Hartke said.