Idaho county and city officials are implementing fireworks bans ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, citing concerns that, combined with the state’s worsening drought, fireworks could ignite wildfires and cause serious damage.
On Tuesday, the Ada County Commission voted to implement a fireworks ban in unincorporated Ada County. Commissioners renewed a resolution first introduced in 2010 allowing the commission to ban fireworks in “areas which constitute a severe fire threat,” the resolution states. Ada County spokesperson Elizabeth Duncan said in a phone interview that the resolution has been reenacted each year since 2010.
A map of the ban area is available online at gis.adacounty.id.gov/apps/fireworksban.
The Boise City Council does not appear to have any similar resolutions planned for debate.
Also on Tuesday, the Blaine County Board of Commissioners voted to ban fireworks of any kind in unincorporated Blaine County. The cities of Ketchum and Hailey also voted to ban fireworks, and a spokesperson for the county said Sun Valley and Bellevue will vote on similar proposals next week.
Blaine County, located in South Central Idaho’s Wood River Valley, has been hit hardest by drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor has declared “exceptional drought” — the highest possible level — in the Wood River Valley. The Boise area is currently considered “abnormally dry,” with surrounding areas varying between moderate and severe drought.
The fireworks bans come just days after the National Interagency Fire Center, which is based in Boise, elevated its Preparedness Level to 4, the second-highest level. The Preparedness Level denotes available firefighting resources while taking into account wildfire risk and forecasts. Since 1990, NIFC has reached Preparedness Level 4 in June only a handful of times, most recently in 2012.
Jessica Gardetto, spokesperson for NIFC, told the Idaho Statesman officials are wary of wildfire risk as the Fourth of July holiday approaches.
“The fact that it’s so dry right now, we’re just continuing to ask the public to be incredibly careful,” she said.
What fireworks are legal in Idaho?
The bans passed in recent days do not outlaw the sale of fireworks, just their use. It’s a similar loophole that has allowed fireworks vendors in Idaho to sell aerial fireworks — like Roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers — despite the fact that they are not legal to use in the state. Customers are asked to sign a waiver declaring that they will not use aerial fireworks in the state, though that doesn’t stop their use.
Non-aerial fireworks, such as sparklers, smoke bombs and snakes, can still be used within city limits in Ada County communities. These legal fireworks are also known as “safe and sane” fireworks.
The bans in Blaine County and unincorporated Ada County encompass all fireworks. Fireworks of any kind are also illegal to use on public land, including Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management properties.
Ada County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Patrick Orr said in an email that the sheriff’s office will prioritize public safety calls over the “dozens of illegal fireworks calls and complaints” the agency receives each Fourth of July. Still, if sheriff’s deputies observe people using illegal fireworks — aerials within city limits or any in the fireworks ban area — they could be ticketed and their remaining illegal fireworks will be confiscated.
“We want to remind people that all fireworks are banned in the Boise Foothills, so anyone who uses fireworks of any kind there also risks getting a ticket,” Orr said.
Use of fireworks in a banned area is a misdemeanor and could result in fines up to $1,000 and jail time up to six months, according to Idaho code.