July 1, 1997 in Nation/World

Fireworks Leave Cops In A Legal Haze

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A vague new fireworks law has Idaho’s Fourth of July revelers wondering what’s all right to ignite.

Local law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, are confused about what to cite.

“There’s still admittedly a gray area because the previous law identified the illegal and now they just define the legal ones,” said Rich Kirsch, interim Coeur d’Alene fire chief. “But we are going to be operating this Fourth of July the same as we always have.”

Kootenai County sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said his department’s interpretation of the law is that it’s not illegal to posses anything - except the M-80’s outlawed by the federal government last year.

“According to our prosecutor’s office, there’s nothing enforceable there,” Wolfinger said.

The city fireworks ordinances prohibit any and all fireworks in city parks, parking lots, beaches and docks. An ordinance also prohibits use of “dangerous fireworks,” but does not define them. That’s also where the state law is unclear.

The law permits sale and use of non-aerial common fireworks in the retail sales chapter, but excludes flying and exploding items from the definition of non-aerial common fireworks. Unlike the previously law, there’s no longer a statewide definition of “dangerous fireworks.”

At Indian Country Fireworks on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, you must be 18 to buy the exploding or aerial fireworks that are illegal to sell off the reservation.

Randy Poole, 38, was buying safe and sane fireworks at Golden Dragon on Fourth and Harrison Monday, where the big sellers include sparklers, the $2.75 Dixie Delight and the $7.75 Night Heat.

But like many Coeur d’Alene residents, Poole said he plans to drive to the reservation to find the “crazy and insane,” fireworks to balance out his “safe and sane,” display.

At Indian Country Fireworks, it’s the exploding big boys like “The Griz” artillery shells or the $39 “Black Widow” that are the hottest sellers.

“People spend from $1 to $1,000,” said Doreen Momberg, an Indian Country employee. “We had a couple from California and they couldn’t believe how much there is. The big people are the biggest kids.”

Perhaps that’s why Idaho’s new law makes it illegal to throw fireworks from or at a moving vehicle or person, sets two seasons for sale and use of fireworks and allows local jurisdictions to regulate fireworks displays.

Still, law enforcement and health officials are hoping area residents will regulate themselves.

“Our biggest concern, irregardless of whether this law is one way or another, is that people use their heads and are safe with what they are doing,” said Kootenai Fire District Chief Ron Sampert.

“Like everyone, we want July Fourth to be a bright, sunny day,” said Roger Evans, director of Kootenai Medical Center’s emergency department.

But emergency room visits increase when the weather lends itself to boating, picnics, day hikes and fireworks, Evans said. In 1996, Kootenai Medical Center treated five people for fireworks-related injuries, down from 12 in 1995.

“We urge everyone to play safely, use common sense, and remember the emphasis should be to be able to look back, on July 5th, at a celebration where everyone had a good and safe time,” Evans said.

The city of Coeur d’Alene’s fireworks display is scheduled to begin at 9:30.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)


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