Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fireworks in Arizona

The headline isn't a joke. Six months ago, it became legal to sell fireworks in Arizona, and businesses, churches and nonprofit organizations in various cities and towns are busily peddling them now.

In a state where desert areas haven't had more than a half-inch of rain since Thanksgiving, I can head to a supermarket or a church and load up on fireworks. Here's the fireworks industry's Web site for Arizona.

I can't set them off in Tucson because Tucson, at least, has some brains. But hey, no prob -- I can head out of town and set them off legally -- in a desert region where fire-hazard conditions are so extreme that the Saguaro National Park on the east side of town, as well as all areas of the vast Coronado National Forest, not to mention all Pima County parks and trails -- have been closed indefinitely to almost all public use because the threat of wildfire is so high right now.

You can't take a hike or ride a bike or horse on a trail, but dang, if you aren't on government land you can set off fireworks -- in a state where large areas are currently aflame with massive wildfires, like this one in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. More than 3,400 firefighters are currently battling that one, which started on May 29 and has burned over 400,000 acres, and is the second-worst fire in the state since records were kept.

Or this one, which started May 8 in the Chiricahua Mountains southeast of Tucson, where 134,000 acres have been burned and the fire is still not even half-contained. Or this one, which firefighters have finally got nearly fully contained in desert terrain and dry grasslands south of Tucson near the towns of Arivaca and Tubac.

The local media are, naturally, solicitous of the churches and nonprofits peddling fireworks. After all, the thinking seems to go, despite the obvious threat to the public welfare posed by fireworks .... well, it's for a good cause. For some churches, it's a big bang for Jesus.

The local media are, naturally, utterly oblivious to another aspect of the fire danger crisis, which is that with the parks and wilderness areas closed to the public, there are whole lot more hikers, bikers and horses now forced onto more sections of public roads, and motorists need to be aware of the additional safety issues involved.

Meanwhile, some state officials have been criticizing the constantly reviled federal government for what they regard as an inadequate emergency response to the wildfires.

Seems that the nativists of Arizona understand that the federal government does have a job to do -- when their house is on fire.

If Amtrak were to run a long-distance train to Phoenix it would have to be called the Arizona Disconnect.


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