SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue throughout the Fourth of July holiday, and fire officials are concerned Utah could see an increase in firework-caused wildfires.
To prevent these types of human-caused fires, some cities have begun to implement firework restrictions. In year’s past, Matthew McFarland, a spokesperson for Unified Fire Authority, said a majority of people obey the law.
“Most people want to do the right thing and they understand why we do it. We do see some non-compliance, whether it’s out of ignorance or just general disregard,” McFarland said.
In 2020, firework-caused wildfires reached an all-time high of 65, according to data from the Utah Forestry, Fire and State Lands. In 2019, firework fires sparked 36.
“What we feel is this might be the year to skip the fireworks. This is a super volatile year with the drought, high temperatures, and a lot of red flag days,” McFarland said.
UFA has an online, interactive map that shows the public where they can and cannot light fireworks in Salt Lake County. The Utah Department of Public Safety also has a website that shows firework restrictions by city.
Across the Utah border, Phantom Fireworks, in Evanston, Wyo., sells a variety of night-sky illuminations.
“These are actually sold in Utah as well, so a lot of our customers come here for the deals and the promos, as opposed to getting anything that’s not necessarily be illegal,” said store manager John Avery.
But just because fireworks are sold at firework stores or at booths, McFarland said it doesn’t mean people should ignite them.
“[It] doesn’t mean you can use them where you are, and it doesn’t mean even if you can use fireworks where you’re located, doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk still and that they can’t start a fire,” he said.
While some of their fireworks are illegal to light in Utah, Avery said they encourage Utahns (and people who come from other states) to follow their local firework guidelines.
While the use of fireworks are discouraged for the upcoming holiday, Avery said there are alternatives to Fourth of July fireworks.
“This for example, is a floating streamer popper, there’s no spark attached to this at all,” Avery said as he showed ABC4 News some firework substitutes. “We do just a little bit of everything, we do make sure to offer those safe alternatives with no sparks, that are all legal in Utah.”
For people who plan to celebrate the Fourth, McFarland reminds the public to be cautious, as conditions are extremely dry. And like Avery, McFarland offers other ways to celebrate.
“This is a volatile year, the fuels are dry, the moistures low, everything is in a situation that’s too precarious to play with,” he said. “So, we really urge the public to avoid fireworks or attend one of those professional shows.”
If a person is caught lighting fireworks in restricted areas of a city, McFarland said they can be fined up to $1,000.
“Just because you buy a $1,000 worth of fireworks, doesn’t make you a professional. Those professional shows carry a minimum of a million dollars in insurance,” he said.
For every firework purchase at Phantom Fireworks, Avery said customers are given a pamphlet of firework safety tips.
There4You, ABC4 News shares four of the store’s firework safety tips:
- Do not use alcohol with fireworks
- Use fireworks on a hard, flat, and level surface
- Use in a clear, open area. Keep the audience a safe distance away from the shooting site. Do not light fireworks where there is dry grass or brush that could catch fire or near any flammable items. Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers
- Have a fire extinguisher, water supply, hose, or bucket of water nearby. Be cautious of lighting any fireworks during strong wind conditions. Light fireworks with prevailing wind blowing away from spectators
As of Thursday, fireworks are still illegal to set off until two days before the Fourth of July and two days after.
During approved firework days, McFarland said UFA, along with other state agencies, will patrol neighborhoods to make sure people are obeying firework regulations in their city.
“If you’re caught in the act of setting off fireworks in an area that they’re not permissible, you could face fines up to a $1,000,” he said.