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New restrictions on fireworks to keep Utah residents safe

Ryker and Seth Richens set up fireworks for display at a stand in Millcreek on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (Jeffrey D. Allred / Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new law places new restrictions on fireworks. Fireworks are not legal everywhere, and in approved areas residents must wait until Tuesday.

The Utah Legislature passed a law to make it legal to light fireworks only during the period of two days before and two days following firework-approved holidays like the Fourth of July.

Fireworks are also legal for Pioneer Day, New Year’s Eve, and the Chinese New Year.

The Legislature passed the bill increasing firework restrictions during the 2018 legislative session.

Wildfires still a threat

The threat of wildfires is significant despite the snowy winter and the wet spring, officials say. Prolific vegetation growth and rising temperatures are significant factors, the state fire marshal says.

“Our mountains right now look very green and wonderful, but later in July and into August, those will become tinder dry,” State Fire Marshal Coy Porter says.

“When we get moisture like this, all of the grass and the grass seeds that might have been somewhat dormant just proliferate,” he says.

Porter adds that dried grasses can become particularly hazardous. The fire marshal points that grass fires can spread quickly under relatively calm conditions.

He says that “even in a no wind situation, where there’s no breeze at all, (fire) will travel as fast as a person can walk. … It goes in all directions.”

Ogden’s fire marshal, Kevin Brown says, “we’re starting to see some hot weather, and it’s starting to dry out, we think it’s going to dry out quickly.”

Federal, state, and local governments set restrictions

The new law increases fines for the discharge of fireworks in restricted areas from $500 to $1,000.

Cities and counties have the ability to impose restrictions of their own.

The state of Utah lists public lands as restricted areas for fireworks.

The state fire marshal recommends that firework enthusiasts should check their area’s restrictions frequently, as the restrictions can change often.

The federal government bans fireworks in federal parks, forests, and on BLM lands.

A spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry is keeping its eyes on the hills of Utah.

“Right now, it’s still a little green out there for us to consider (further) restrictions. But we still want people to be really careful, because we’ve already had several fires” says Jason Curry, spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry.

Porter says firework restrictions are “placed in areas where the wildline meets the urban, we call that the wildland-urban interface.”

When you can light fireworks

State law says fireworks are legal on July 3rd and 5th from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. On the Fourth of July fireworks are legal from 11 a.m. to midnight.

The Moab City Council voted last week to allow the use fireworks at the Center Street ballfields across from City Hall during the legal fireworks dates.

In Springville, residents can check an interactive map to see where fireworks are allowed.

Where you can’t light fireworks

Salt Lake bans all fireworks east of 900 East. Restrictions include the University of Utah campus, all areas north of South Temple, in City Creek Canyon, and west of Redwood Road.

Moab bans the use of all fireworks on parkways, trails, paths, parks, and other city properties. Fireworks are also illegal within 20 feet of any residence, building, structure or combustible material.

In Salina, residents must wait until after the town’s fireworks display to light their own. The city says the wait is an issue of resources. The local fire engines cannot respond until Salina’s own show is complete, officials say.

Several counties in southern Utah are under fire restrictions.

Campers should check on what the fire restrictions are for their campsites.

Fireworks are illegal in national parks and forests.

Residents can check with their local governments for all of the applicable rules on fireworks.

Small fireworks can be dangerous, too

The state fire marshal says sparklers are the most common firework-related reason why children miss the fun because they are in the hospital.

“(Sparklers are) the No. 1 item that we see in this season that causes visits to doctors and ERs, but are not technically listed as fireworks,” Porter says.

Parents should be aware that young kids kids may not realize how hot sparklers can get.

“They don’t really understand that the sparkler can be burning at temperatures pushing over 1,700 degrees” Porter says.

Children under twelve years old should not use sparklers, according to the fire marshal’s website.

The fire marshal also recommends that people have a hose and a bucket of water nearby. He also warns against relighting “the duds.”

The state fire marshal also offers several safety tips. People are advised to have a bucket of water or hose on hand when lighting up fireworks and warned to never relight a “dud.”

Fireworks caused twenty-one fires in 2018, according to Sheri Stevens, program manager for the Utah’s national fire incident reporting system.

Those twenty-one fires do not necessarily account for all the firework-caused fires. Fire departments do not report the cause of all fires, Stevens says.