WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – On Monday, the state observes Pioneer Day, and it’s also the last day you can use personal fireworks to celebrate, legally that is, until December. However, many officials say a few minutes of fun might not be worth the risk after a busy weekend filled with human-caused fires.
“In West Haven we had five fires at one time including a structure fire,” Weber Fire District Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Marshal David Reed told ABC4. “So, there was a neighbor’s firework; he had his cake (a type of aerial firework) out and it launched and got his neighbor’s house on fire.”
Reed explained that the 4th of July weekend saw more firework-caused fires than any year in his career. At least, that he could remember. “It got so bad that every unit in Weber County, that I know of, was on a fire,” he stated. “We had a chief officer arrive at the scene of a fire and there was not one unit with water available to help.”
At that time, there weren’t many restrictions in place (outside the normal ones) limiting firework use. However, in the days between Independence Day and Pioneer Day, the weather got hotter and the moisture levels in fire fuels dropped. For that reason, additional restrictions were put in place across the state for the July 24th celebrations.
Reed told ABC4 that over this past weekend, there were fewer 911 calls than the July 4 weekend. He said they believe many people decided to postpone using personal fireworks as additional restrictions went into effect.
Nonetheless, fireworks were still the leading cause of fires over the weekend. In just the last 24 hours, at least nine grassfires popped up in the county. Reed explained that many people have the belief that grassfires are not anything to worry about. He said they are often easier to get under control but put a strain on resources during the busiest time of year. He added: “And then we have another fire, or even a medical call, and all our resources are fighting a grassfire. So yes, it taxes us to go on multiple grassfires at the same time.”
According to the Ogden City Fire Department, during the two July holiday weekends, many of the fire calls dispatch receives are dumpster fires. This type of fire is especially dangerous because they can easily spread to a home. For those who decide to use fireworks tonight, officials asked that they place all spent fireworks in a bucket of water and leave them in that bucket overnight before throwing them away.
If possible, officials urge Utahns to hold off on anymore fireworks until December. “We’re very pro, try to let people have their freedoms and enjoy their fireworks on the 24th and the 4th, but it gets hard when, you know, you light your neighbor’s house on fire,” Reed stated.
Sadly, that’s what happened to one Magna family this weekend.
“As far as responding on an emotional level as you walk up to somebody, like you stated, who is having the worst day of their life, I don’t know that that can or ever will be easy,” Mackenzie Jones stated. “They lost their home, and they were displaced for an undefined amount of time.” Jones is the Disaster Program Manager for American Red Cross’ Greater Salt Lake Chapter. Jones is also one of the responders helping the Magna family while they are displaced from their home after the fire.
There have been at least half a dozen homes damaged or destroyed by fireworks this summer. Every instance is a tragedy. Reed said this type of tragedy is entirely preventable. He urged all those who will be using fireworks on July 25 to use extreme caution and to look up their local fire restrictions.