Forget the bottle rockets, Roman candles or any other illegal fireworks you purchased to celebrate your independence.
Fire chiefs across Kootenai County say they will go after anybody with aerial fireworks that fly higher than 20 feet or farther than 15 feet. Idaho law gives them the authority to issue the misdemeanor citations, they say.
The chiefs stepped forward Thursday to promise action because the Kootenai County prosecutor has advised the sheriff’s department that a new state law doesn’t prohibit any specific firecrackers. Federal statutes make M-80s illegal.
The fire chiefs disagree. And they worry that confusion over the law will bring bottle-rocket wielding revelers to the area.
“I’m getting calls, primarily from Spokane, from people who say, ‘If we buy bottle rockets down on the (Coeur d’Alene Indian) reservation, where can we come and shoot them around Coeur d’Alene?”’ said Wayne Syth, chief of the Hayden Lake Fire District.
“You can’t. So don’t come here with a big truckload of illegal stuff.”
Spokane bans all fireworks. Coeur d’Alene prohibits fireworks on any public property. The easy way to figure out what’s legal is to buy from a neighborhood stand, the chiefs advise. The various fire departments issue permits for the fireworks stands in their districts after checking to make sure they are only selling legal fireworks.
“If we see something we didn’t see last year, we buy it, bring it back and light it off,” to see if it violates the law, Syth said.
Fireworks already have started two fires in the Hayden Lake district this year and sparked a dozen fires last year. Three of last year’s fireworks-related fires were started by people who were drinking and lighting firecrackers, Syth said.
Coeur d’Alene reported one fireworks fire last year, Rathdrum reported two, and Kootenai County also saw two fireworks-related blazes in 1996. Bayview reported one, in late August, that burned nearly 300 acres of national forest land and injured a firefighter.
This year, the Bayview Fire District Commission has banned any aerial fireworks except those being used for the show on Lake Pend Oreille.
“Our biggest concern is that the people lighting them realize they are liable for them and liable for injury to property, whether the fireworks are illegal or not,” said Ron Sampert, Kootenai County’s chief.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor for the city of Coeur d’Alene will press charges against people with bottle rockets and Roman candles if the county prosecutor won’t, said Richard Kirsh, the city’s interim fire chief. And fireworks of any kind are illegal after midnight Saturday.
Fireworks always are prohibited on national forest and Bureau of Land Management land.
People who want to catch a legal display can take in the show at Bayview or Lake Coeur d’Alene. The Lake City Jaycees are still soliciting donations for their show, which they say is about $12,000 short of covering its costs.
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