Fireworks continue: Utah House at odds over bans, special session

Local Politics

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah is seeing a historic drought, record temperatures, and statewide wildfires. Ahead of two major holidays – Independence Day and Pioneer Day – many are calling for a statwide fireworks ban.

But the chances of that happening are slim.

Governor Spencer Cox was recently asked why he has not issued a statewide ban on fireworks. In response, he said he had been advised he does not have the legal authority to do so, but expressed his strong support for a ban.

If he had been given the authority, Gov. Cox says he would have implemented the ban already.

Who does have the power? The state legislature, who is unwilling to yield on the issue, according to the governor.

“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.

A member of the legislation, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, responded to these calls for a statewide ban on Monday, 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.

You can see the full statement below:

“Today, we join local community leaders to express our extreme concern regarding the danger posed by fireworks with this year’s drought conditions, and we call for the state legislature to meet in special session to allow municipalities more local control over fireworks in their communities. We have heard from residents and local elected officials in our districts that they need and expect more during this extraordinary situation to help prevent a life-altering disaster in their neighborhoods. Our brave firefighters must be protected from exceeding their capacity to respond in conditions ripe for incendiary calamity. 

“Ninety percent of Utah is in an extreme drought, which triggers fire bans on public lands. Sixty-four percent of the state is in exceptional drought with even further fire restrictions. When such conditions exist, Utah’s cities and towns must have the authority to regulate fireworks to prevent accidental burning of land and destruction of property.

“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. 

“We understand that fireworks are a universal part of our cherished July celebrations. They symbolize the immense pride we have in our country and our state. This summer, under these extraordinary conditions, we need to come together in another great Utah tradition of protecting our neighbors and untie the hands of our local elected officials.”

Currently, a handful of cities have firework bans in place. To see if fireworks are legal in your area, click here. For Salt Lake County residents, click here.

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