SALT LAKE COUNTY — The extreme drought is forcing Utah cities and counties to enact firework restrictions.
People are blamed for causing 257 fires already this season in Utah. Nearly 9,000 acres have burned by June 1.
“We’re anticipating another busy wildland fire year,” said Salt Lake County Emergency Manager Clint Mecham.
With the state in a drought emergency and high wildfire danger, communities have begun enacting strict firework measures.
Statewide, fireworks are only permitted from July 2-5, July 22-25, on New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve. They are only only allowed to be lit between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on the permitted dates in July, except for the 4th and 24th when that period extends to midnight.
Even during those times, many areas are off-limits to fireworks due to factors contributing to high fire danger.
Mecham said some communities in Salt Lake County are broadening restrictions to cover hot spots that caused them trouble in the past.
“We’re not even in a severe drought. We’re in an exceptional drought year, [which] brings additional challenges with fire season fast approaching. There are a lot of things we’re concerned about,” he said.
The state’s most populous county isn’t the only one being proactive.
From Ogden to St. George, firework restrictions are being tightened in cities across the state.
“You’re not only concerned about the fire itself but what it does to your personnel,” said St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker.
For the first time ever, St. George will open up 16 city parks for personal fireworks over the Independence and Pioneer Day holidays in an effort to reduce the risk of fire.
“Give them another opportunity to go if they are in the restricted area,” said Chief Stoker.
People can be held liable for disobeying the restrictions and causing a fire. This can include paying all the costs to put it out.
A statewide firework ban is unlikely, as it requires every municipality in the state to sign off.
The Utah Fire Marshal's office keeps a website where Utahns can check the restrictions where they live. Click here to view.
Some cities and towns have not yet updated this year's restrictions, but Mecham said most of Salt Lake County is the same as last year. Contact your local municipal government with any further questions.
Several wildfires in 2020 were caused by the illegal use of fireworks. Some were set off outside of the allowed time frames, others lit in restricted areas, and some even went against both of these restrictions.
The "Traverse Fire" was one such incident -- police believe two teenage boys set off fireworks in both a restricted area and during the statewide prohibited time. The wildfire these fireworks sparked forced residents in the Traverse Mountain area on both the Lehi and Draper sides to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night.
In addition to following the rules on when and where Utahns are allowed to light their own fireworks, Mecham also reminds the public to follow safety precautions, such as keeping them out of reach of children and dousing used fireworks with water before throwing them in the trash. More safety tips can be found here.