SALT LAKE CITY — According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 12,900 fireworks-related injuries were treated in emergency departments in 2017. So, with all the wildfires burning in Utah right now, is it worth the risk by setting off fireworks for Pioneer Day?
Within the past week, two teens were charged with lighting fireworks in a restricted area in June. That sparked a blaze that led to 100 homes being evacuated on Traverse Mountain in Lehi. The cost of the fire is now $415,000.
Tooele County Fire Warden Dan Walton joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to talk about the cost of illegal fireworks and why the restrictions are important.
Wildfire costs in Utah in 2020
“If a juvenile lights off a firework and it causes extensive damage — or even an adult — do they end up having to pay the bill if a couple of homes are burned down?” Debbie asked Walton.
“Typically when we see large fire bills, those most oftentimes get charged to a person’s homeowners insurance or that person may just end up in bankruptcy,” Walton said. “It’s extremely expensive to put out a fire. We have to get that money back somehow, and it’s up to our legal teams to help figure that out.”
Walton said the cost of wildfire suppression in Utah so far this year is $18.5 million.
“Holy smokes,” Dave exclaimed.
Walton said humans ignited 634 of the fires in Utah, which represents 82% of all fires this year.
Fireworks and fines
“How often are fireworks to blame?” Dave asked.
“I don’t have the specific number on fireworks . . . We see people get a little bit too excited, and they just go around lighting fireworks where they’re not supposed to. That’s where we start seeing the bigger fires,” Walton said.
He said firefighters can respond to blazes in residential areas quickly and keep costs down.
“If someone is caught setting off fireworks in an illegal area, what’s the fine for that?” Debbie asked.
“That is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, and that does not include any damage or fire-suppression costs,” Walton said.
Find out more about fireworks restriction areas in Utah here.
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