COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Starting Friday, fireworks can be legally used in approved areas. However, if your celebration turns into a fire, you may be the one holding the bag.
Governor Spencer Cox warned this fire season could cost hundreds of millions of federal, state and local dollars if it as severe as predicted.
“I’m nervous going into the weekend with just how critical conditions are state-wide. It’s drier than we’ve ever seen. Fire potential is very high,” said Utah Division of Forestry Fire & State Lands spokesperson Kait Webb.
While numbers aren’t in yet, last year the state paid out more than $36 million. The annual budget is about $12 million.
Whenever possible, the state will hold the fire-starters responsible.
“People don’t often think about how much it costs to put a fire out,” said Webb.
A helicopter equipped to fight fires can cost up to $12,000 a day. A retardant drop made by a single engine air tanker is about $7,000 each. A drop made by the very large air tankers is $50,000 per drop. Webb said those tankers can make six to eight drops per day.
A group of teens playing with fireworks in a restricted area sparked a massive 12,000 acre fire in Washington County last July. Three juveniles and a parent were criminally charged for the fire that cost $2.5 million.
"It gets so busy,” said Unified Fire Authority Asst. Chief Riley Pilgram.
The largest urban firefighting agency in the state said they pay a different price when the sun goes down on Independence Day.
“A lot of people are working a lot of hours, a lot of different shifts, call backs and overtime. When we get to that point, our firefighters are out there and responding to these calls already and it gets dangerous,” said Pilgram.
Unified Fire Authority and other fire agencies will have extra staff on hand to keep the public safe.
Law enforcement is tasked with enforcing firework restrictions and many will be working overtime this weekend.