In the latest twist over legal fireworks, an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General's office says aerial fireworks can only be sold to someone with a permit for a public display or event. The controversy over sales of bottle rockets and Roman candles heated up after last year’s Table Rock Fire in the Boise Foothills.
In Idaho, “safe and sane” fireworks, which don’t launch into the air, are legal for purchase. Aerial fireworks, like bottle rockets, were illegal to set off in the state, but people could still buy them here if they signed an affidavit saying they wouldn’t be used in Idaho.
After last June’s Table Rock Fire was sparked by an illegal Roman candle, a range of officials including Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan, began aggressively lobbying against an apparent loophole in the law. Now, Doan says, that loophole is shut.
“Well I believe they were illegal the whole time and others thought that they had a loophole and the Attorney General agrees with me that they are illegal to sell, possess and light off,” says Doan.
A-G Lawrence Wasden says the opinion from his office is not a ban, decision, ruling, or directive. He says some law enforcement agencies may change their policies based on the opinion.
A bill crafted during the last session of the Idaho Legislature addressing the issue failed to launch. The bill’s sponsor, Boise Democrat Matt Erpelding, asked the Attorney General’s office to clarify the current law regarding aerial fireworks. That analysis was made public Tuesday.
Doan says the issue really heated up after last year’s Table Rock Fire burned 2,500 acres and destroyed a home in the Foothills. He says it was a wake-up call for many people about the danger of aerial fireworks.
“We had the Foothills Fire, we had many other wildland-urban interface fires and in this valley we had six homes burn because of illegal fireworks and it’s unsafe for our community and for our firefighters who have to fight these fires,” says Doan.
With the AG’s opinion released just days ahead of July 4, some police and fire officials plan to travel around to local firework vendors explaining the situation. Doan says selling illegal fireworks will not only be illegal, but sellers face more consequences if they sell them now.
“The key point for vendors to know is if they do sell it and somebody starts a fire like we had at Table Rock, they could be held liable or accountable for the damages for selling illegal fireworks,” says Doan.
The man who started the Table Rock Fire last year with a Roman candle was ordered to pay more than $390,000 dollars in damages caused by the fire.
Correction: The Idaho Attorney General announced on Wednesday that his opinion is not a ban or a decision and does not change existing law. His opinion does say that aerial fireworks can only be sold in Idaho to "a person possessing a permit...for a public display or event."
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