SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Wildfires like the one this week in Centerville, presumably started by fireworks, are something the Utah Fire Marshal is trying to avoid. With more opportunities to light fireworks Tuesday night and around Pioneer Day, he’s trying to get the message out to be fire smart and leave the firework shows to the pros, in this edition of Behind the Badge.
Making sure fireworks don’t turn into wildfires is part of the job of the Utah Fire Marshal Ted Black.
“We want people to have a good time, we want them to celebrate, but we want them to be safe,” said Ted Black, Utah Fire Marshal.
Black said with much of the state in what’s now considered a “mega drought” the message to be smart and not light your own fireworks is more important than ever. He said Utah’s dry conditions outside are simply fires waiting to happen.
“All they need is that spark, and then we have a wildfire, and that can grow faster than you ever imagine,” said Black.
That message echoed in recent days from Utah Governor Spencer Cox.
“You don’t want to be the one who is having a good time and then in just a matter of seconds, everything goes south. Your house burns down, your neighbor’s house burns down, or you start a wildfire that costs the state $50 million,” said Gov. Spencer Cox, (R) Utah.
That threat was very real two years ago in Lehi. Just days before the 4th of July, teenagers lighting fireworks there started what became known as the Traverse Fire, which burned roughly 500 acres. An aerial view reveals how dangerously close it came to more than two dozen homes, including that of Riana Coombs.
“It was really scary… it’s frustration because it could have simply been avoided,” said Riana Coombs, a Lehi resident.
Avoiding these fires and others is what the State Fire Marshal and his office do each day.
Much of their time focused on inspecting things like sprinkler systems in new commercial buildings, but over Black’s 40-year fire career, he’s equally as concerned about saving your home from a fire.
“I don’t want the 4th of July or the 24th of July to be a catastrophic event for anybody,” said Black.
He said one of the best things you can do to ensure fireworks don’t threaten your home is simply listening to your own fire safety instincts.
“If you’ve questioned to yourself – maybe fireworks aren’t a good idea this year, you’ve answered your question, they’re not a good idea this year,” Black said.
He said if you leave fireworks shows to the pros it improves your odds of avoiding a wildfire.
The Fire Marshal said last year people in Utah really responded to the call to not light their own fireworks, and that showed by the lower amount of firework-related fires. He said last year the number dropped by 50%. So, you’ve got opportunities to light fireworks Tuesday night, and then again around Pioneer Day. The Fire Marshal is hoping someone reading this right now opts to go see a firework show instead of lighting them yourself.