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Idaho Falls fire chief supports bill to amend illegal fireworks loophole

Boise’s fire chief is pushing lawmakers to outlaw the sale of fireworks that are illegal to set off in Idaho, a response to last June’s fireworks-caused wildfire that torched 2,500 acres of Foothills land.

Idaho Falls Fire Chief David Hanneman is also backing the initiative. Last August, the Henry’s Creek Fire burned 52,233 acres. The Great Basin Fire Team 7 took over when the fire spread past Tex Creek and Indian Fork drainage. Home subdivisions were threatened along with livestock.

After Bonneville deputies were tipped off by the public, they discovered an Ammon man was responsible for starting the Henry’s Creek Fire. Kristian John Lopez admitted to shooting off bottle rockets in the area, causing a fire. Lopez pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of malicious injury to property.

However, Hanneman said every year we pay the resources that go to fighting fires due to illegal fireworks.

“The Henry’s Creek Fire cost $4.3 million and Lopez will not be able to pay restitution, so taxpayers will end up paying,” Hanneman said.

He also said most fires happen after the Fourth of July.

“We would encourage selling ‘safe and sane’ fireworks are still allowed. Sellers could sell legal fireworks but what would go away if this bill passes are the bottle rockets and the mortars– the ones that cause substantial damage, and once they are shot off no one has control where they land, so they can start houses and fields on fire,” Hanneman said.

Under Idaho law, it is legal to sell aerial fireworks but illegal to set them off in-state. The individual purchasing them signs a waiver stating that they are going to take them out of state to some place where it isn’t illegal in for use or resale.

“The reality we are seeing is that is not occurring. We are seeing use of the illegal fireworks being used in the same state that it is illegal. The waiver just protects the vendor but fails otherwise to ensure no illegal use of fireworks,” Hanneman said.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said Wednesday that draft legislation is being finalized and would likely go before the House State Affairs Committee for a print hearing this week. He said the legislation, proposed by state fire officials, would “close the perceived loophole that allows retail sales of aerial fireworks and puts our communities at risk.”

Hanneman advises that fireworks be left to the professionals.

“We have safe firework shows every year on the Green Belt and in neighboring counties. We just don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Hanneman said.

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