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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Are aerial fireworks illegal in Idaho? Yes. Are you still able to buy them? Also yes

By Nicole Blanchard Idaho Statesman

BOISE – Fireworks stands popped up around the Treasure Valley ahead of the Fourth of July, but depending on where you shop, you’ll find different options – and potentially different interpretations of what’s legal to buy in Idaho.

In Boise, stands offer sparklers, snakes, snaps, wheels, whistles and fountains – fireworks deemed “safe and sane” because they don’t leave the ground or explode. But outside the city limits, some stands advertise aerial fireworks: Roman candles, firecrackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and more. That’s because Boise enforces an interpretation of Idaho law that considers aerial fireworks illegal. Not all cities have followed suit.

State law permits fireworks stands to sell “nonaerial common fireworks,” such as the safe and sane options, and fireworks meant for public displays. But for years, vendors have sold aerial fireworks to consumers who sign a waiver or affidavit that states they won’t use the fireworks in Idaho.

According to state officials, those waivers aren’t required by law – even though some fireworks vendors believe they are – and they don’t make it legal for average buyers to purchase aerial fireworks. But unless the Legislature or local jurisdictions decide to act, things won’t change.

Attorney General’s Office confirms former opinion

In 2017, the chief of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office’s criminal division, Paul Panther, issued an opinion deeming the sale of aerial fireworks illegal unless they were sold to a person with a permit to use them at an event or public display. Dan Estes, spokesperson for the AG’s office, told the Idaho Statesman in an email that the opinion hasn’t been changed or updated.

But that’s as far as the attorney general can go on the issue of aerial fireworks, Estes said, since the agency “doesn’t have any enforcement authority over the distributors and sellers of fireworks or individuals that use them, nor do we have any supervisory role over those entities that do have that enforcement authority.

“That rests with county and municipal law enforcement.”

In Boise, officers may confiscate illegal fireworks and issue fines – $100 for a first offense and a misdemeanor charge with a $300 fine for an additional offense within five years – if they see illegal fireworks being used, according to Boise Police Department spokesperson Haley Kramer.

The truth about waivers and affidavits

Vendors that operate multiple temporary fireworks stands in the Treasure Valley, like Family Fun Fireworks and Fat City Fireworks, which also operates a year-round store in Elmore County, advertise safe and sane fireworks at Boise locations while offering aerial options at locations in Star, Emmett and Nampa.

Fat City requires people buying aerial fireworks to sign an affidavit affirming their intent to use the fireworks outside of Idaho. The document also absolves Fat City of any potential liability if the buyer uses the fireworks in violation of the affidavit terms.

Fat City did not return email or phone requests for comment.

An owner at Family Fun Fireworks said by phone that she believed the waiver was required by Idaho law to sell aerial fireworks. She declined to comment further.

In his opinion, Panther noted that there’s no such requirement in state law.

“Whether a seller requires such an affidavit or a purchaser chooses to sign or go elsewhere to purchase fireworks, it is a wholly private matter,” Panther wrote.

It’s unclear how long the fireworks vendors keep the signed waivers, or when or why they began using them in the first place.

What’s wrong with aerial fireworks?

Aerial fireworks are considered a potential fire hazard since they can emit sparks and land far from their original location, potentially igniting vegetation or other fuels.

While they pose a bigger risk than safe and sane options, Kramer said people should direct fireworks complaints to nonemergency dispatch, at 208-377-6790, rather than to 911 unless there is an emergency.

“In many cases when officers respond to reports of fireworks, if our officers do not witness the use of illegal fireworks, we need a witness to be the signing party on the citation,” Kramer said. “If no one is willing to do that, officers can give warnings and speak with people about the risks of illegal fireworks, and each year our officers find that people do typically comply after we contact them.”

According to a post on the city’s website, Boise Fire Department responded to 25 fireworks-caused fires last Fourth of July.

All types of fireworks are illegal to use in the Boise Foothills and unincorporated Ada County, where wildfire danger is especially high.

Last Friday, a group of teenagers started a 100-acre grass fire near southeast Boise while setting off illegal fireworks. A 16-year-old was cited for misdemeanor firing timber or prairie land.