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Long holiday weekend has UHP on lookout for fireworks smugglers

   |  Posted Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:45pm



 

NORTHERN UTAH -- For many Utahns, it just wouldn't be the Fourth of July without fireworks.

Here in Utah, we love them. And with a long Independence Day weekend, it's going to be a busy next couple of days from St. George to Logan. Because the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year, some cities opted to celebrate on different days.

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That's good news for you and your family. It means there are four days to eat, play and watch fireworks, starting Friday night.

There are multiple chances to catch a fireworks show. The majority of Utah cities are lighting them off Saturday, following fun runs and festivals. A few will be hosting shows Sunday and a few others on Monday, July 5.

Of course, if you buy your own, you can dazzle neighbors any time -- but beware if it includes illegal ones. You may lose them and pay a hefty fine.

The Utah Highway Patrol is making sure that people aren't smuggling in the illegal stuff from Evanston, Wyo.

Phantom Fireworks of Wyoming offers hundreds of snaps, snakes, fountains and bottle rockets.

"Some people when they walk in the door can't get past the register," said Ellie Shiller of Phantom Fireworks. "They stop and they're overwhelmed. They're like, 'Wow.'"

Phantom also offers a list of suggested scenic routes from their stand back to Utah. All avoid I-80, where the Utah Highway Patrol often nabs those bringing back illegal fireworks to Utah.

It's no secret that a lot of Utahns go to Wyoming to purchase bigger, badder fireworks. But because some of those are illegal, troopers can pull you over and confiscate them and give you a fine.

UHP Trooper Cade Brenchley took KSL on a ride-along, with the intent to seek fireworks and booze smugglers.

"Between the 4th and the 24th of July you could almost patrol the entire month and you're going to find something," said Trooper Cade Brenchley.

Utah Fireworks law
Utah Law 53-7-226 (6)
A person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if he sells at retail, transports, possesses, or discharges class C dangerous explosives.

The first stop Brenchley made was a tailgating infraction. There were no fireworks or alcohol in the vehicle. His second stop was for suspected drowsy driving -- again, no illegal goods.

But on the next stop, a speeding stop, Brenchley found a whole trunk load of fireworks purchased from a store right across the Utah-Wyoming border: Phantom Fireworks.

"He told me he was up there, and I asked him if he purchased anything, and he was honest, which I appreciate a lot," Brenchley said.

In all, the man had purchased $440.95 worth of fireworks. That is now money down the drain because Brenchley confiscated all the fireworks.

One popular fireworks spot in Evanston is called Phantom Fireworks. It has rows and rows to choose from.

"[There are] Roman candles, the big mortars and, you know, big fireworks," said Utahn Nicholas Battiloro.

Battiloro went to Phantom Fireworks with his uncle, from the Salt Lake area. The fireworks stores in Evanston get a lot of business from Utahns, even though the customers are likely smuggling them back.

"We rely on the customer to use their best judgment, follow the law in their area when they purchase fireworks from us," said Schiller.

Firefighters will also be patrolling neighborhoods in Utah over this long weekend, looking for illegal fireworks. In some cities, if you're caught, fines could potentially be upwards of $1,000.

If you still want to have some fun, there are safe and legal fireworks available in Utah. CLICK HERE for a list of county and city restrictions.

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Story compiled with contributions from Sarah Dallof and Nicole Gonzales.

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