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Illegal-fireworks calls flood dispatchers over Fourth of July

A sign on this fireworks stand said aerial fireworks were available for sale at other locations. A recent opinion by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office said it is illegal to sell aerial fireworks to the public. Enforcement of the policy is left to local sheriff’s departments and police.
A sign on this fireworks stand said aerial fireworks were available for sale at other locations. A recent opinion by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office said it is illegal to sell aerial fireworks to the public. Enforcement of the policy is left to local sheriff’s departments and police. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Ada County dispatchers heard hundreds of reports about illegal fireworks use on the Fourth of July despite extensive recent discussion over the legality of aerial fireworks in Idaho.

Ada County Sheriff’s Office’s dispatchers, who field calls for most of the fire, police and emergency medical responders in the county, stayed especially busy over the holiday weekend. From 12:01 a.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday, dispatchers received 266 reports of illegal fireworks in Ada County. Since Saturday, they had received 392.

Boise firefighters reported Wednesday that they responded to 13 fires, at least four linked to fireworks, on July 4 and early July 5. Most were quickly resolved and caused little damage.

The threat of illegal fireworks in Idaho has been prominent since a Roman candle ignited a 2,500-acre fire in the Foothills last year, destroying a home.

It remains legal in Idaho to buy illegal aerial fireworks as long as customers sign an affidavit saying they will not shoot them off in Idaho. Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan has repeatedly opposed this loophole, and some state legislators have unsuccessfully sought to outlaw the sales of aerial fireworks.

Last month, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that was contrary to the common belief that retailers could sell the fireworks. The opinion said aerial fireworks could not be sold or used by the public. The opinion, however, is not a change in law. It does not require authorities to enforce the opinion or to cite retailers.

Fireworks caused more than 350 fires in Idaho, burning 26,000 acres, between 1992 and 2013, according to previous reports by the Statesman. More than 70 of those fires were 10 acres or larger.

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