Fireworks could lead to dangerous Pioneer Day amid extreme wildfire season

Utah Wildfires

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Wildfire danger is high across the state of Utah and it’s about to be met with fireworks being set off for the Pioneer Day holiday.

With weather conditions ripe for wildfires, firefighters are on alert.

Mattew McFarland, Spokesperson for Unified Fire Authority, said current weather conditions are hotter and dryer than we saw on the fourth of July, which was the last time it was legal to use fireworks.

“We’ve had low humidity, high temperatures, the ground fuels are way more prepped now for flammability than they were three weeks ago, and they were dangerous then,” McFarland explained.

According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, there have been at least 50 wildfires sparked by fireworks this year. In the Salt Lake Valley, McFarland said there’s been a field fire
everyday for two months straight.

“Even on a day like today, you can see the haze in the background is forest fires and wildland fires here in Utah blowing in from different parts of the state.”

McFarland also advised people to take extra precautions even in the greenest-looking grass, because it is still prone to fire.

“Even if they look green, there’s dead fuels, they can be very volatile. If a fire starts, it gets what we call pre-treated. The heat dries it out enough within seconds, even if it’s a green plant.”

From July 2-July 5 2019, there were 32 firework-related emergency department visits. From July 2-July 5 2020, there were 65 firework-related emergency department visits, according to the Utah Department of Health. The number may be even higher as data is still being gathered.

“We see a huge uptick in personal injury over fireworks-related holidays,” McFarland told ABC4 News. “This includes pediatric injuries. Children should never be using fireworks. Even small things like sparklers. Those burn at 2,000 degrees. Burns happen quickly.”

The Unified Fire Authority said if you choose to light fireworks, do so safely.

“Have a bucket of water. We see a huge uptick in dumpster fires and trashcan fires because people don’t soak their used fireworks. They just throw them away, then they smolder and can start a fire, which can sometimes spread to a structure as well.”

“I like to see people take bricks and stack them next to the fountains and the shooting stars (types of fireworks) and things of that nature. That keeps those fireworks stable.”

Fireworks are legal to spark from July 22-25 for the holiday weekend, but it doesn’t mean you can use them in your neighborhood. To see if you live in a restricted fire area, click here.

If you are caught lighting fireworks in restricted areas, you can face a fine of up to $1,000, be held liable for any fire damage, and have to pay for the cost of fighting the fire.

Brittany Johnson
Brittany prides herself on seeking the truth about everyday issues in the community and providing citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions.
Click here to download the ABC4 Utah News app for the first alerts on your phone. Sign up for the ABC4 Utah breaking news and daily newsletters.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.