SPANISH FORK, Utah — At least two fires in northern Utah were confirmed to have been started by fireworks on Pioneer Day as Utah struggles with an extreme drought impacting almost all of the state.
The hay was still smoking Sunday morning at a barn in Spanish Fork, which was the scene of a large structure fire just after midnight.
According to the Utah County Fire Marshal, the fire was started by a single mortar firework, which is banned in Utah. A neighbor who lives uphill from the barn reported seeing the mortar go off, with one ember landing on top of the barn and instantly starting the blaze. It engulfed the structure and burned around 100 tons of hay stored inside.
The owner of the barn, who declined an on-camera interview with FOX 13, said the hay was worth $30,000, and it cannot be replaced due to limited supply caused by the drought across the western U.S.
Tooele resident Brad Christensen nearly lost his home when a fire started in his front yard around 9 p.m. Saturday night.
"I went over to close my window and I smelled smoke," Christensen said. "At first I thought started in [my] evergreen bush which is nothing but a skeleton right now. I figured it might've been fireworks-related, you know, sparks or something hit it."
Tooele City Fire Department confirmed with FOX 13 that the blaze was caused by fireworks. The flames consumed Christensen's truck and burned part of his garage. He said he normally sets off fireworks for Pioneer Day but avoided them this year.
"I appreciate the fact that other people do it, but it's unfortunate that I ended up with this," He added, looking at the damage done by the fire.
Firefighters have pleaded with the public throughout the summer to avoid fireworks this year. The owner of the barn in Spanish Fork said the damage will set him back tens of thousands of dollars as he scrambles to find hay to feed his cattle. He's worried he may have to sell a few cows because of the setback.
Fire officials are reminding people that if they start a fire, they're liable for any damage caused, as well as the cost of firefighting efforts which can be up to $20,000 per hour, according to the Utah County Fire Marshal.