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OV council approves temporary fireworks ban

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Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 11:29 am | Updated: 12:41 pm, Thu Jun 30, 2011.

Following advice from local fire officials, the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to place a temporary ban on consumer fireworks.

Council members said they didn't feel comfortable approving a permanent ban, but agreed given the current weather conditions in Arizona, a temporary measure is needed.

It is an emergency ordinance, which means the ban becomes effective immediately, instead of going into effect in 30 days. Requiring a super majority vote to pass the emergency measure, the ban was approved in a 6-0 vote; Vice Mayor Mary Snider was absent.

After a lengthy discussion, the council agreed the issue should be revisited every 30 days.

The town fire marshal, in consultation with town staff, can lift the ban at a later date. It does not need a council vote.

The ordinance does not address professionally produced and staged shows as those are permitted on a case-by-case basis.

While not required to, the Hilton El Conquistador Resort canceled its professional fireworks display planned for the July 4th celebrations in favor of a laser-light show.

Lynn Ericson, the general manager of the resort, said the decision to cancel was about being a good neighbor. While the 4th of July weekend is good for the resort economically, Ericson said the decision to cancel came down to doing what's right.

"We are going to have a safe laser-light show that won't threaten neighbors or the community," he said. "We are now looking to host a fireworks display over Labor Day weekend."

With the five wildfires burning throughout Arizona and the continued dry conditions, Councilman Lou Waters said it would be irresponsible not to take action now.

Fire Chief Randy Karrer, of the Golder Ranch Fire District, said even if it rains for a few days, conditions are still too dry to take a chance this season.

"Essentially, the humidity and water count in plants has to change," he said. "Just a few weeks of rain aren't even going to do it."

During the public hearing, John Munger, a representative of TNT Fireworks, said they are trying to work with local communities to reach "reasonable solutions."

Smoking, recreation vehicles, power lines, campfires and agriculture equipment, according to Munger, cause most fires.

Munger spoke against the council approving a permanent ban, and said he didn't see any reason why people shouldn't be allowed to set off ground fireworks on their own properties.

Town Attorney Tobin Rosen said violators of the law would be cited and held liable for the cost of emergency services.

As per state law, Rosen explained Oro Valley is allowed to ban the use of fireworks, but cannot ban a company from selling them.

Oro Valley joined a list of entities prohibiting consumer use of fireworks this season, despite the Arizona Legislature passing a law last year to make them legal.

The City of Tucson voted to prohibit them immediately following the sate vote last year, and the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to ban them in mid-June.

However, two residents and TNT Fireworks are suing Pima County over the ban.

The fireworks company and residents Ed Parker and Tim Davis have asked the Superior Court to approve a temporary restraining order that would block the county's outright ban.

TNT Fireworks is claiming a loss in revenues and sales because of the county's action.

The Town of Marana is the only entity in the Tucson region that has not banned consumer fireworks.

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