SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Citing concerns regarding the state and city’s extreme drought conditions, Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall announced on Tuesday a citywide ban on Class C fireworks.
Class C fireworks are also known as common fireworks, which will be restricted in the city limits, along with any open burning until further notice. Smoke bombs and sparklers will also be off-limits for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve appreciated the state’s focus on local control…we appreciate the support and that we have the legal ability to put this kind of restriction in place,” Mendenhall said when speaking to the media following the announcement.
“Our foothills, open spaces, and even our yards and park strips are dry and could be ignited by a single spark, threatening life, safety, and property,” Mendenhall continued. “These conditions present a very real, immediate threat of fire. We have seen communities in neighboring western states be leveled by urban wildfires in recent years, and we cannot take unnecessary risks that may put us in the same position.”
The power to restrict fireworks — or not — was given entirely to local government leaders and officials this summer when Governor Spencer J. Cox stated that he was unable to enact a statewide ban after consulting with legal experts and the state legislature.
When explaining his inability to ban fireworks statewide, he stated that had been empowered to do so, he would have done it, saying that the legislature is making a misstep in not implementing such a ban this summer, which is projected to be one of, if not the driest summer in the state’s history.
“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 on June 17.
According to Mendenhall, her decision to enact the capital city’s ban came after consultation with the fire officials suggested that the area was ripe for combustion.
“It’s not if there’s a fire, it’s when,” said SLC Fire Chief Karl Lieb when speaking after Mendenhall’s announcement.
According to remarks made during the press conference, the time period for the ban is indefinite and may be tricky to enforce due to staffing issues, but officials will be doing their best to punish those who choose to light fireworks within the city limits. Any violations of the ban will be classified as a misdemeanor and could carry a fine up to $1,000.
State lawmakers are at odds as to whether or not the state should have an all-encompassing ban. On Monday, the state legislature’s Speaker of the House, Brad Wilson, responded to these calls for a statewide ban by releasing the following statement:
“Dry conditions have increased the fire danger across many parts of our state and we have taken steps to empower local officials rather than imposing a statewide fireworks ban. I do not believe it is necessary for the legislature to hold a special session at this time; instead, it is my hope that local leaders will determine what works best in their communities and that Utahns will act reasonably and responsibly as we celebrate Independence Day and Pioneer Day together.”
On Tuesday, House Democrats called for a special session to grant local leaders the power to ban, or not ban, fireworks, siding with Governor Cox, a Republican, to call for an increased look at the situation at the legislative level.
“Governor Cox has emphasized a desire to limit fireworks and has run into the bounds of his authority to do so. Therefore, it is necessary for the legislature to grant local control during extreme drought conditions so that communities can assess and decide what is best to protect their residents, property, and economy,” read the statement from the Democrats.
Salt Lake City is still planning on hosting fireworks shows on Jordan Park on the Fourth of July and at Liberty Park on Pioneer Day.