Firework business booms near wildfire - CBS 5 - KPHO

Firework business booms near wildfire

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As the Wallow Fire scorched its way through the Apache National Forest, a Circle K convenient store in the small town of Eager sold party poppers and other small flammable fireworks.  It's less than two miles away from the wildfire and in the middle of a very dry forest.

While firefighters risked their necks fighting the worst forest fire in Arizona's history, a new state law allows this Circle K and other businesses to sell fireworks on nearly every city block.

Kelly Wood, a fire inspector from nearby Pinetop, Arizona expressed his frustration at the latest hot commodity. "It was very disheartening for me. I saw it and I was like, ‘what are you thinking?'"

A 40 minute drive away in the town of Snowflake, tents were pitched and offering "real fireworks" for sale. They had names like Highway to Hell.  Another was called Fire and Brimstone. CBS 5 Investigates purchased the one with the most firepower. It's called The Brooklyn Bridge and we bought it for $40.

Cina Sunderhaus is the City of Mesa's Assistant Fire Marshall. With her help, we lit the Brooklyn Bridge next a pile of dry brush and tumbleweeds. In just seconds, it was blazing away. 

"The scenario that we set up here is very typical of what you could see in an alley, in a yard that is not very well maintained or a foreclosed house," adds Sunderhaus. According to her, that is exactly what can happen in your neighborhood.

For the most part, fire departments can't stop the sale of fireworks even if they are sold near a wildfire. This frustrates officials like Kirk Webb, the fire marshal in Lakeside, AZ. "The way that the law was passed, we can't control the sale of any fireworks," Webb said.

Back in Snowflake, we wanted to ask the owner of one of the tents we spotted selling fireworks if it was good idea to sell them so close to the wildfire.

When CBS 5 Investigates started asking questions, the owner refused to come out and talk.  A clerk who was selling the fireworks just said, "He's not here right now."

Kelly Wood figures the only way officials might get businesses to take the fireworks off the shelves, is to beg.  The fire inspector from Pinetop, Arizona plead, "Especially not here in the State of Arizona," and added, "Especially now, because we are so dry."

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