SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House voted Wednesday to clarify the state's fireworks law, specifically targeting the inability of counties, cities and towns to ban specific types of fireworks.
Under HB289, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, municipalities would still be able to prohibit the discharge of fireworks in specified areas if the local fire officials determine that hazardous environmental conditions exist, but they wouldn't be allowed ban state-approved fireworks.
"Many appreciate the fact that local government and towns have the authority to ban legal fireworks in mountainous and brush-covered areas," Dunnigan said. "But we have some people in flat areas of Utah that maybe aren't brush-covered, and perhaps towns should not have the ability to ban in those areas."
Herriman, which is located in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley, is definitely a city belonging to the first category. Leaders and residents there battle severe fire danger every year; and come July, firework season instills fear in everyone.
"We're very conscience of fires, and it's very important for us to be aware of how we can prevent them and protect the residents," said Gordon Haight, Herriman's assistant city manager.
During the summer of 2012, cities were encouraged to put firework bans into place, and many did. The problem is cities don't have the right under current Utah law to restrict in the ways many need to — and that law can be very confusing, broken into several different places in state code.
Dunnigan said HB289 clarifies cities' rights in firework enforcements, give them more control in high risk areas, and empower cities to ban fireworks all together if needed. It does not allow them to pick and choose which fireworks are allowed and which are not — which some cities did last summer.
Current law doesn't allow that "buffet style" ordinance making either, but cities were confused. Dunnigan said his bill solves that problem, and Herriman city administrators support it.
"They have more choices of conditions to ban," Dunnigan said.
The bill would not change the dates or hours of firework availability or the types of fireworks allowed to be discharged, Dunnigan said.
HB289 passed the House by a 73-1 vote now advances to the Senate.