Why Arizona fireworks shows may be canceled this summer

As fires continue burning in the High Country, the question of how fireworks should be used in Fourth of July festivities takes on greater significance.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 10:11 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- As fires continue to burn in the High Country, the question of how fireworks should be used in upcoming Fourth of July celebrations takes on greater significance.

When the pandemic started, the sale of fireworks in Arizona took a hit. Demand has bounced back quickly, but supply still hasn’t caught up. “Production is trying to catch up, and it’s not completely caught up,” San Tan Fireworks owner Jason Colt said. “And it probably won’t be for a year and a half.”

It’s forced Colt to be proactive, buying some of his current fireworks supply as far back as 2020. Because Colt says, the demand for these on-the-ground fireworks isn’t going anywhere. “I had record sales for the fourth straight season,” he said. “Americans are always guaranteed certain things in a bad economy: gambling, alcohol, fireworks.”

But when it comes to city-run fireworks shows, that guarantee doesn’t really exist anymore. Last week, the City of Phoenix announced that all of its Fourth of July fireworks events are canceled due to supply chain issues. Meanwhile, the City of Flagstaff has transitioned to a yearly laser light show, with city manager Greg Clifton saying “it was the responsible action to take due to extreme fire risk.”

Rural Metro Fire’s Shawn Gilleland says that same logic should apply to all Arizona residents. “If you can avoid doing it, don’t use fireworks this year,” he said. “Go to a professional show somewhere, go to the light show and enjoy it that way.”

While areas in the High Country generate the most headlines regarding fires, Gilleland says it doesn’t take much for someone using fireworks anywhere in Arizona to start one. “Many people think well I’ll just use my garden hose and I’ll just put it out real quick,” Gilleland said. “But I’ve seen where it starts from a small spark just grinding to the next thing you know you’ve got acres of fire running. Especially in windy conditions in dry, low humidity like we have now.”

Gilleland and Colt’s advice? Wait overnight, and ideally, 24 hours before putting any fireworks into the trash. “It’s the same thing, somebody throwing hot fireworks in a garbage can, and then sticking the garbage can in their garage,” Colt said.

“We really want to just encourage people to be as safe as possible,” Gilleland added.

Any fireworks that go into the air are illegal for Arizonans to use, and even those on-the-ground ones like sparklers can only be used from June 24th through July 6th. However, for those looking for city-run fireworks shows, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, and Glendale are among the cities that will still be putting them on.