They are visible along nearly any main road in the Treasure Valley. Temporary trailers and tents line the streets with advertisements that make children and adults alike go starry-eyed.
“TNT.” “Black Cat.” “Fireworks.”
Fireworks stands opened for business on June 23 and are permitted to sell their wares until July 5.
But there can be a cost higher than what’s on the products’ price tags, because with fireworks often come accidental fires.
Fire departments across the valley are now gearing up for what is usually their biggest fire night of the year, inspecting fireworks stands, scheduling extra staff and putting extra “grass rigs” or brush engines on standby.
“It becomes a busy week for us as we respond to the result of fireworks fires and injuries,” Nampa Fire Department Fire Marshal Ron Johnson said.
Johnson said his department is asking the public to be responsible with fireworks and help them keep the community safe.
And it’s not just fire departments. TNT Fireworks, one of the largest consumer fireworks distributors in the nation, has started a nationwide safety campaign. And it all starts at the temporary stands and trailers lining the streets.
James Fuller, safety expert for TNT Fireworks, said the company has been training its retail partners to educate consumers before they leave stands on how to safely light off their freshly purchased fireworks.
“If you’re going to use consumer fireworks, you’ve got to be safe,” Fuller said. “We can’t sell fireworks if we don’t have consumers who will use them responsibly, it’s that simple.”
TNT’s campaign focuses on three principles:
1. Be Safe
2. Be Legal
3. Act Responsibly
Safety involves many different factors. According to Joe Bongiorno, deputy chief of prevention for the Meridian Fire Department, one way people can help create a safe Fourth of July is by making sure that they don’t light fireworks around dry grasses or brush.
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This year, with all the heavy precipitation the region received in the spring having spurred plant growth, grass fires have become a particular concern.
“The grasses are going to dry out fairly quickly. And it’s going to be volatile at some point,” Bongiorno said.
Lighting fireworks on a hard, flat surface well away from the house and having a bucket of water or a hose handy can add an additional layer of safety to the experience. Fuller emphasized the importance of not lighting off fireworks from an unstable surface like a table.
The Meridian Fire Department is also asking the public to soak their fireworks in a water-filled bucket overnight before disposing of them in a garbage can.
“Usually every year, we’ll see one fire where the people just pick up the fireworks and throw them in their garbage can,” Bongiorno said. “And then at 1 o’clock in the morning we’re there putting their house out because it caught fire because the garbage can caught fire.”
Legality of fireworks can be a bit murky in Idaho as there is a difference in what is legal to sell and what is legal to light off. Fuller said TNT is aware of these rules and its retailers are instructed to educate consumers of what they can light off and where. According to Johnson, “non-aerial common” fireworks are the kind of fireworks that are legal to light off in Idaho. Aerials are illegal.
Although consumers can purchase aerial fireworks at stands in unincorporated parts of Ada and Canyon counties, there are typically conditions they have to sign onto.
“They usually make people sign a form saying they’re lighting them off outside the state,” Johnson said. “We know that’s not what happens. Just look around on Fourth of July.”
Illegal aerials light up the skyline around the Treasure Valley on the Fourth of July. But this is a risky game to play. Johnson said those who light off fireworks are legally and financially responsible for any personal injury or property damage their fireworks cause.
“Just want to remind people that their actions do impact others,” Johnson said.
And there are other legal repercussions for not abiding by fireworks rules and regulations. In Meridian, lighting fireworks off in public parks is a misdemeanor, according to Bongiorno.
In Boise, those found using illegal fireworks could receive a ticket and a fine of $100. A second violation within five years is a misdemeanor with a $300 fine, according to Haley Williams, senior communications manager for the Boise Police Department.
“Instead of buying illegal fireworks, there’s plenty of venues around the valley that have firework venues that are where they’re shooting off fireworks,” Bongiorno said. “The shows in the valley are pretty spectacular.”
Finally, acting responsibly is key to having a fun and safe Independence Day. According to Fuller, this means consumers using common sense when picking out fireworks, taking into consideration where they will be lighting them off. Fuller said to also make sure spectators are watching from a safe distance.
Johnson added that people should never handle fireworks if they aren’t sober and that parents should always be mindful of their children. Even sparklers, he said, can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees.
“We’re asking that people be considerate of their neighbors and be very safe and trying to have a safe Fourth of July,” Johnson said.