Sparked by Fireworks: A look at how many Utah wildfires were started by fireworks

Digital Exclusives

In this photo illustration a woman holds a burning matchstick and fireworks. (Photo illustration by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 8. Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, fire crews responded to 68 new wildfires in Utah, according to Utah Forestry Fires and State Lands. Over the past seven days, 122 wildfire starts were reported across the state. This now brings the total wildfire starts to 644, a significantly higher number for fires compared to this time in 2019, and 2018.

Additionally, 520 of these wildfires were human-caused – primarily by fireworks.

18 of the 122 wildfires over the past week (July 1- July 8) were caused by fireworks. Other primary causes include general equipment fires and campfires.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – 2020 has seen an abnormal amount of wildfires in Utah. As of June 30th, there have been 537 total wildfire starts across the state, according to Utah Forestry Fire and State Lands. Over 130,000 acres have burned because of these fires, 82% or 436 of the wildfires so far in 2020 have been human-caused. As the summer months have arrived many Utahn’s will flock to the outdoors for recreating.

The primary reason for the human-caused starts range from the following:

  • Fireworks (many areas have restrictions on the discharging of fireworks)
  • Campfires
  • Vehicles

While these are all a major concern for public safety, the number of fires sparked by fireworks is an alarming reality.

Fire officials encourage the public to learn Utah’s fireworks laws, in addition to state and federal agencies emphasize that it is illegal to possess or ignite fireworks on state or federally administered lands.  If convicted, fines can reach up to $100,000 and responsible party(s) will be billed for all fire suppression costs, which frequently exceeds $50,000 for larger wildfires.

Most recently, the Traverse Fire which was caused by firework activity burned a total of 467 acres. The fire started roughly around 11:30 p.m on Saturday June 27th and caused a many residents to evacuate as the fire burned dangerously closed to homes, fortunately none of which were damaged.

40 foot flames scorch the hillside during the Traverse Mountain Fire

Other fires started by fireworks in 2020: (according to Forestry Fires and State Land)

  • Avenue R
  • Turn Key
  • Catfish
  • Volcano
  • Sheep Hill 
  • Wildfires started by fireworks in 2019: 36
  • Wildfires started by fireworks in 2018: 29

With the COVID-19 pandemic and many individuals searching for ways to stay entertained at homes, fire officials are preparing for a busy 4th of July and Pioneer holidays. The Bureau of Land Management reminds Utahn’s that fireworks are never allowed on public lands.

Volcano Fire Courtesy: Utah Fire Info
Courtesy: Twitter

With an already active wildfire season in Utah it’s important to remember “firework restrictions and regulations are in place to provide for public safety, the Traverse Fire last weekend was a testament to that, the fire was caused by illegal and irresponsible use of fireworks. It not only resulted in numerous evacuations but also placed firefighters, first responders and the public at risk” said Kaitlyn Webb of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “We have had a very dry spring and summer so far in Utah. Fire danger is high and vegetation is very susceptible to ignition. Before celebrating with fireworks this holiday weekend check with your local fire authority or visit Utahfireinfo.gov to view the fireworks restriction map in order to find out if fireworks are allowed in your area. Never light fireworks when it is windy or near dry vegetation or flammable materials” added Webb.

In the event you’re within close proximity of a wildfire, stay far away as possible and let firefighters mitigate for safety concerns.



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Tracy Smith
Curtis Booker, joined the ABC4 family in January of 2019 as a Digital Content Producer. In May of 2019, he transitioned into learning the inner workings of becoming a news producer assisting with various shows. Curtis most recently rejoined the Digital team as a multi-media journalist in February of 2020.

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