- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - It’s illegal for people to buy aerial fireworks in Idaho without a special use permit, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office said in an opinion released Tuesday.

The opinion appears to conflict with a common practice of selling aerial fireworks as long as buyers promise not to use them in Idaho.

Some Idaho fire officials say that promise means nothing and illegal fireworks have caused destructive wildfires.

It’s not exactly clear how law enforcement agencies across the state will respond to the legal opinion.

Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan said he expects agencies to enforce the law and have vendors remove illegal fireworks.

Ada County already bans the sale of aerial fireworks to the public, he said, but adjacent Canyon and Elmore counties don’t. Doan said those fireworks make it into Ada County, causing fires and endangering lives.

Doan said the attorney general’s opinion means that vendors who knowingly sell illegal fireworks could be held liable for any damages caused.

Elmore County Sherriff Mike Hollinshead, who has been in office since January, said he planned to discuss the attorney general’s opinion with his staff.

“I want to have some deputies go around and start looking,” he said. “We will check and see what is going on and then I will make my determination.”

The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The opinion by Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther said a person with a fireworks retail license can only sell non-aerial, common fireworks. To sell aerial fireworks, the seller must have a wholesaler or importer license and the buyer must have a public display permit.

The opinion follows an inquiry by Democratic Rep. Mat Erpelding of Boise, who praised it, noting that aerial fireworks cause wildfires that jeopardize the lives of citizens and responders.

John Palomarez of John’s Discount Fireworks in Caldwell said he’s still selling aerial fireworks and requiring buyers to sign an affidavit acknowledging they’re illegal to use in Idaho.

“Nothing has changed,” he said of the legal opinion. “They’ve just put this out to try to scare the public that the sales are illegal.”

If aerial fireworks sales to the public end in Idaho, buyers would just go to Utah or tribal reservations, he said.

“You’re talking about millions of dollars,” he said. “It’s a free country. People should be allowed to do what they want to do. That’s what makes America great.”

In May, a judge in Ada County ruled that a 19-year-old man must pay more than $391,000 in damages after pleading guilty to violating the county’s fireworks ordinance by lighting an illegal firework that sparked a wildfire.

The 2016 wildfire in the Boise foothills burned about 4 square miles (10 sq. kilometers), destroyed a home and threatened residences.

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