EVANSTON, Wyo. (ABC4 News) – ‘The bigger, the better,’ fireworks are arguably one of Utah’s favorite ways to celebrate the 4th of July. As the holiday approaches and Utahns can now legally set off fireworks for the next three days, firework stores near the Utah state border are preparing for one of the busiest weeks of the year.
“I would buy hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks. It’s worth it to me because I just take that hour drive, load up, and I don’t have to come back for a while,” said a customer who requested anonymity and will be referred to as John Doe in this article. “It’s more bang for my buck.”
Phantom Fireworks is one of the first stores drivers see when crossing the Utah-Wyoming border into Evanston. Managers say approximately 80 percent of their customer base are Utahns.
“It’s kind of like our Super Bowl,” said Taylor Truitt, Regional Manager for Phantom Fireworks in Evanston, Wyoming. “Most of our business happens in June and July. We go from just a few employees in the off-season to nearly 50 employees.”
Some traveling customers say they make the drive for the selection or the price, others come for the illegal fireworks.
“I love the aerials, some of which are illegal in Utah. I also love the mortars, bottle rockets, and Roman candles,” said Doe.
Assistant Manager Trea Albert showed ABC4 News how the store labels their products to make it easier for Utah customers to know which fireworks are legal in their state. Still, they take the extra step at the register to point out when a Utah customer is buying illegal fireworks. But said legally, they can’t stop them from making the purchase.
Utah Highway Patrol said the fine for transporting illegal fireworks into the state is $680. But in the last three years, troopers have only issued one ticket for that particular offense.
Sgt. Nick Street said enforcement is difficult because since the Utah Legislature legalized a number of aerial fireworks in 2011, troopers have a hard time distinguishing between which fireworks are legal and illegal.
Troopers also cannot pull a car over and issue a search on mere suspicion of illegal firework transportation.
“A trooper would have to come upon illegal fireworks while searching a car for another reason,” said Sgt. Street.
Officials said certain types of fireworks are prohibited for a reason, reminding Utahns that safety should always come first.
“We live in a dry state with a lot of vegetation, making for extremely high fire hazards. There’s a lot of tinder that can start a large fire. Use your best judgement,” said Sgt. Street.
For more information about firework use and safety in Utah, click here.