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Fire officials anxious about new fireworks laws

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Jun. 28, 2011 at 6:15 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- New fireworks regulations mean bigger fireworks are now allowed, and they can start going off earlier in the year. In fact, maybe you've heard your neighbors taking advantage of new regulations already. While state fire officials don't oppose the new law, they are on edge over what it means for fire safety in Utah.

Firework places like TNT Fireworks are seeing an increase in sales mainly because of the newly legal fireworks. You may have heard the saying, "Better the devil you know than the one you don't." Well state fire officials are watching this new devil closely.

It's a wait-and-see situation right now for state fire marshal Brent Halladay. "What we were doing with all of the illegal fireworks coming in just wasn't really working really well," he said. "Most people don't' realize that fireworks are indeed an explosive."

New fireworks rules allow Utahns to use aerials that can travel up to 150 feet -- 10times the previous legal limit.

Shopper Camilla Dinkins has been looking forward to the new fireworks. "Some fireworks used to be illegal that now we're allowed to do, so we're pretty excited to give ‘em a try," she said.

Some of the fireworks tents around town are set up to raise money for different organizations. Stacey Squires says she's not a pyro-technician, but she does try to share safety tips with her customers. "We try and do our best to educate the people when they come in to buy them, to let them know how high they shoot."

She took a two-hour TNT firework training course. "People don't know. There are a lot of people that are just like, ‘We're not sure what an illegal firework is,'" she said.

Because it's new in Utah, a lot of people are asking for aerial fireworks.

BJ Burt, with TNT Fireworks, showed us the Saturn Missile. "They're going to travel a lot higher, and they're more explosive," he said.

Now that state fire officials are not as worried about illegal fireworks coming into the state, the main concern is how things will play out with more people lighting up more powerful and explosive fireworks.

The Utah Department of Health is also concerned about the new fireworks laws. Officials say between 1999 and 2009 there were 512 emergency room visits in Utah due to fireworks. The majority of those visits were children ages five to 14. Even though explosive fireworks have the potential for serious harm, health officials say sparklers are more often responsible for a child's injuries.

Halladay says state regulations require using aerial fireworks at least 30 feet away from buildings or homes, no fireworks near grass or other vegetation, and no one under 16 is allowed to handle fireworks.

Halladay also says that each city has its own restrictions on when, where, and how to use these new fireworks. You'll have to check with your city to find out the specifics on how these new rules apply.

E-mail: niyamba@ksl.com

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