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Can Fireworks Gone Wrong Lead to an Arson Charge in Arizona

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With the Fourth of July coming up, you may be wondering about the legal implications of setting off fireworks in Arizona. While fireworks can add excitement to celebrations, they also pose legal risks. If fireworks are used recklessly and cause a fire, the individual responsible could face serious legal charges.

In Arizona, reckless burning is a charge that applies when a fire is caused by reckless behavior, endangering property or lives. However, if the fire is set intentionally, the charges could escalate to arson, a much more severe offense.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireworks cause an average of 18,500 fires in the U.S. annually, resulting in approximately $43 million in direct property damage​

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Reckless Burning and Arson Charges

Arizona FireWork Laws 

In Arizona, the use of fireworks is subject to regulations under A.R.S 36-1606 to ensure safety and prevent accidents. Here is an overview of the types of permissible fireworks, the dates when they are allowed, and where you can legally set them off, with specific details for July 4th.


Permissible Fireworks

Arizona law allows the use of certain consumer fireworks, often referred to as “permissible fireworks.” These include:

  • Ground-based sparklers: Also known as “ground and handheld sparkling devices.”
  • Smoke devices: Items that produce smoke but no significant explosion.
  • Fountains: Devices that emit sparks but do not explode or launch into the air.
  • Novelties: This category includes items like snappers, pop-its, glow worms, snakes, and toy smoke devices.

Aerial fireworks, firecrackers, and other explosive devices are generally prohibited for consumer use without a special permit.


Allowed Dates for Use

Under A.R.S. § 36-1606, the use of permissible consumer fireworks is allowed on specific dates throughout the year, including special allowances for holidays:

  • May 4 – May 6
  • June 24 – July 6
  • December 26 – January 4
  • Diwali: On the second and third days of Diwali each year.

For the July 4th holiday, fireworks are allowed from June 24 through July 6, giving ample opportunity to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks.


Legal Locations for Setting Off Fireworks

While fireworks are permissible on the above dates, their use is subject to location restrictions to prevent fire hazards and ensure public safety:

  • Proximity to Preservation Lands: Fireworks cannot be used within a one-mile radius of the border of preservation lands owned by a city or town that has purchased more than 15,000 acres of land for preservation purposes.
  • Proximity to Mountain Preserves and Parks: Fireworks are prohibited within a one-mile radius of municipal or county mountain preserves, desert parks, regional parks, designated conservation areas, national forests, or wilderness areas.
  • Time Restrictions: Fireworks use is prohibited between 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., except on July 4th, when they can be used until 1:00 a.m. on July 5th.

legal vs illegal fireworks in arizona

What FireWorks Are Illegal in Arizona?

According to A.R.S. § 36-1606, certain fireworks are illegal for consumer use without a special permit. These include:

  • Aerial Fireworks: Fireworks that are launched into the air, such as bottle rockets, sky rockets, and Roman candles.
  • Explosive Devices: Fireworks that explode, such as firecrackers and M-80s.
  • Reloadable Mortars: Devices that shoot projectiles into the sky and explode.
  • Fireworks that Spin or Fly: Items like aerial spinners and flying spinners.

These types of fireworks are prohibited due to the increased risk of injuries and fires they pose. Consumers are allowed to use ground-based and non-explosive fireworks, including sparklers, smoke devices, and fountains, under specific conditions and during designated times of the year. Violating these restrictions can result in fines and legal consequences.


Possible Penalties

  1. Fines: Individuals caught using illegal fireworks can face fines. The exact amount can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the violation. 
  2. Misdemeanor Charges: Violations of fireworks regulations can be classified as misdemeanors, which may lead to criminal records, fines, and other legal penalties.
  3. Confiscation: Law enforcement officers have the authority to confiscate illegal fireworks.
  4. Additional Penalties: Depending on the severity of the violation, additional penalties such as community service, probation, or educational programs on fire safety may be imposed.

How Does the Fourth of July Impact FireWork Regulations

The Fourth of July impacts fireworks regulations in Arizona, creating specific allowances and restrictions to balance celebration and safety. Under A.R.S. § 36-1606, permissible consumer fireworks, such as sparklers, fountains, and smoke devices, can be legally used from June 24 through July 6.

On July 4th, the use of fireworks is extended until 1:00 a.m. on July 5th, accommodating late-night festivities.

Despite these allowances, the use of fireworks remains prohibited within one mile of preservation lands, mountain preserves, and other designated natural areas.

What If the Fireworks Start a Fire? 

 If fireworks start a fire in Arizona, the legal repercussions depend on the circumstances surrounding the incident. If the fire was started accidentally due to reckless behavior, the individual could face charges of reckless burning under A.R.S. § 13-1702.

Reckless burning involves causing a fire that endangers property or human life through reckless conduct and can result in significant penalties, including fines and potential jail time.

However, if the person intentionally started the fire, the charges could be elevated to arson under.

Arson is a more severe offense that involves intentionally setting a fire with the purpose of damaging property or harming individuals. Arson charges carry harsher penalties, including longer imprisonment terms and substantial fines, reflecting the serious nature of the crime.

Possible Charges and Penalties 

In Arizona, starting a fire with fireworks can lead to serious legal consequences, including charges of reckless burning or arson. The classification and penalties for these offenses vary based on the severity and intent of the act.


Reckless Burning (A.R.S. § 13-1702)

Reckless burning involves recklessly causing a fire or explosion that endangers a person or property. This charge is typically classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona include:

  • Fines: Up to $2,500
  • Jail Time: Up to 6 months in county jail
  • Additional Penalties: Probation, community service, and restitution for any damages caused by the fire



Arson is a more severe charge and can be classified into different categories based on the intent and outcome of the fire:

  1. Arson of a Structure or Property (A.R.S. § 13-1703): Intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion with the purpose of damaging a structure or property. This is classified as a Class 4 felony if no person is injured.
    • Fines: Up to $150,000
    • Prison Time: 1.5 to 3 years for a first offense
    • Additional Penalties: Restitution to victims, probation, and community service
  2. Arson of an Occupied Structure (A.R.S. § 13-1704): Intentionally causing a fire or explosion in an occupied structure, which is more severe due to the risk to human life. This is classified as a Class 2 felony.
    • Fines: Up to $150,000
    • Prison Time: 4 to 10 years for a first offense
    • Additional Penalties: Restitution to victims, probation, and community service
  3. Wildland Arson (A.R.S. § 13-1706): Intentionally starting a fire in a forest, wildland, or area with significant natural resources. This can be classified as a Class 2 or Class 3 felony, depending on the extent of the damage.
    • Fines: Up to $150,000
    • Prison Time: 2.5 to 7 years for a Class 3 felony, and 4 to 10 years for a Class 2 felony
    • Additional Penalties: Restitution for damages, probation, and community service

The specific penalties can vary based on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s criminal history.


Charge Classification Fines Prison Time Additional Penalties
Reckless Burning Class 1 Misdemeanor Up to $2,500 Up to 6 months Probation, community service, restitution
Arson of a Structure or Property Class 4 Felony Up to $150,000 1.5 to 3 years Restitution, probation, community service
Arson of an Occupied Structure Class 2 Felony Up to $150,000 4 to 10 years Restitution, probation, community service
Wildland Arson (Class 3 Felony) Class 3 Felony Up to $150,000 2.5 to 7 years Restitution, probation, community service
Wildland Arson (Class 2 Felony) Class 2 Felony Up to $150,000 4 to 10 years Restitution, probation, community service

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney at CHM 

If you are facing charges related to fireworks misuse or arson, it is important to seek expert legal representation. The attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta (CHM) are highly experienced in criminal defense and dedicated to providing the best possible outcome for their clients.

At CHM, the focus is on personalized legal support tailored to meet the unique needs of each client. We work diligently to protect your rights and ensure you receive fair treatment under the law. With a strong track record of success, our attorneys are well-equipped to defend against charges of reckless burning, arson, and other serious offenses.

Contact our law firm today at (602) 825-2500 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

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