UTAH (ABC4) – As the Fourth of July, and therefore fireworks season, draws nearer and nearer on the calendar, one of the hottest issues (literally) facing the occasion relates to the aerial explosives themselves.
With the entire state in drought conditions and over 70% in “exceptional” drought status, the highest designation possible, there is growing sentiment that fireworks should be banned in Utah this summer.
“Because it is so dry, I am pleading with you, we are working with the legislator and local governments to cut back on fireworks this year,” said Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox in a virtual town hall earlier this week.
Having to resort to pleading with residents, Cox has little ability to enact or enforce a statewide ban on fireworks. Later in the week, he admitted in his monthly press conference that legal advisors had informed him that he does not hold that power, and the state legislature has little to no interest in implementing such a ban.
The latter, he said, was especially frustrating.
“I’ve told the legislature I think it’s a terrible idea not to have additional restrictions this year. They haven’t shown any interest in doing anything more around that, so we are relying on local governments to put those restrictions in place,” Cox explained.
As for one major fireworks company that distributes in Utah, business is expected to be booming (pun intended) this summer.
James Fuller, spokesperson for TNT Fireworks, which is headquartered in Alabama, says his company is aware of the situation in Utah, but still expects consumers in the state to choose to buy the symbols of celebration in big numbers.
“We think consumers in Utah understand their environment and the climate they’re in and they certainly recognize that this is a unique year,” Fuller, who also formerly worked as a firefighter, tells ABC4. “And while we need to be safe and we need to be responsible, we believe if you take the right precautions, if you’re thoughtful and responsible in the use of fireworks, you can do it in an arid environment safely.”
According to Fuller, TNT also found and appreciated the comments and concerns given by Cox this week and sent him a letter on Thursday, offering to inform the public on responsible fireworks lighting practices this month.
“What we want to do is educate everyone that does choose to use those fireworks, either for the Fourth of July and another big holiday coming up which is Pioneer Day,” Fullers explains. “What we want to do is not ignore what we know communities and consumers are going to do, which is use fireworks to celebrate like they’ve done for 200 years.”
If consumers choose to ignite fireworks during the approved timeline around the holidays, Fuller urges Utahns to pick a suitable and safe location for a celebration, have a water source on hand, and not to throw the used casings in the trash until they have soaked in water.
“If consumers use those simple rules, we have every confidence in the world, if they’re done smartly responsible, we can do it safely, even in Utah, under an more arid climate than usual,” he states.
For many Utah families and charity groups, selling fireworks in a tent in a parking lot is a yearly tradition and a way to boost income and fundraising. Emily Hansen and her family worked a stand in a Kaysville grocery store for the last five years. This year, however, the Hansens have decided not to operate a stand, due to a lack of interest by their growing children, and concern that sales may dip as Davis County officials weigh their options on banning fireworks or not.
Although the country was gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic last July, Hansen and her family still managed to do about $5,000 in sales. They sold out their inventory last year for the first time and were unable to satisfy all their customers who were eager to hold personal shows after city-run extravaganzas were cancelled.
Fuller says that while bringing in product from their overseas partners, including manufacturers in China, is still somewhat challenging and there is an industry shortage, getting fireworks to folks in Utah shouldn’t be an issue if consumers buy as soon as sales start on Thursday.
“We’d encourage consumers to buy early, because there will be less available product than they had in past years, and we’ve got some exciting new products out there, and we want to make sure people have access to those products,” he recommends.
While Hansen is out of the fireworks selling game, for this year at least, she thinks some folks will buy, but is also confident that some issues may arise.
“If we are this dry, I’d say there’s no way there won’t be.”