COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS (News4Utah) – One year after his house nearly burned down in a fire caused by illegal fireworks, a Cottonwood Heights resident is protesting the recreational use of aerial fireworks and a mortgage company that owns the 14 acre land next to his house.
David Schoeneck Jr said he nearly had a tragedy last year because of illegal fireworks.
“On July 4th last year, my neighbor called me when I was out of town and said my house was going up in flames,” said Schoeneck Jr. “The first thing I did was make sure my wife and son got out of there safely, which they did.”
He said the fire burned part of his house and evacuated a dozen others. Cottonwood Heights Police said the fire was caused by someone lighting illegal fireworks.
“If that 20 foot wall of fire that came out of Security National Financial Corporation’s field next to us would have hit our gas line, our house would have blown up. If our house would have blown up with the 30 mph canyon wind, there’s a very good chance there would have been deaths down to the west,” said Schoeneck Jr.
He said no one was killed in the fire, but if this were to happen again, his neighborhood might not be as lucky.
“It was very traumatic, not just for me not being able to do anything but my wife when she was younger, their house burnt down when she was 11 years old so she’s standing across the street just in extreme agony, thinking our house was going to be gone,” said Schoeneck Jr.
In a protest outside of the Mt. Memorial View Mortuary 4th of July morning, he said he is urging lawmakers to ban the recreation use of aerial fireworks statewide.
“The state fireworks laws are absolutely ridiculous. We live in a desert climate and as you can see, there are fires all around the state, all around the Intermountain West and other states. Many of them are caused by people,” said Schoeneck Jr.
The other part of his protest is against Security National Financial Corporation (SNFC), a mortgage company that owns the 14 acre wildland property next to his house. He said the company has been negligent in maintaining their field from being a fire hazard.
“Over 14 years, I have asked them to abate the fire hazard and I’ve contacted Cottonwood Heights. They’ve done minuscule – cut down a little bit of grass and that’s it,” said Schoeneck Jr.
Adam Quist, vice president of Security National Financial Corporation disagrees.
“It was maintained above and beyond code and we have been in periodic communication with the city to make sure we are following their recommendations because we do take fire safety seriously,” said Quist.
Schoeneck Jr. said he believes SNFC should pay for the fire damage that cost his family $20,000 to repair.
“There were upgrades to his house that were not required and so we think it’s unfair morally, ask our shareholders to pay for upgrades for someone’s house,” said Quist. “While Dave claims fire safety is his concern, he’s agreed to call off the protest if we pay him money and paying sums of money does not solve a fire safety issue.”
Quist said the person who set off the illegal fireworks is not related to his company and the fire started on land three properties away from their land.
He said Schoeneck Jr. has brought an attorney with him to meetings with SNFC. But no legal action has been taken.
Schoeneck Jr. said it’s an option he’s considering because he doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.
“I’m not going away. I’m definitely like a dog with a bone because if I can make companies take responsibility for fire hazards and make lawmakers realize these laws are crazy, I think maybe we can save lives,” said Schoeneck Jr.