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SALT LAKE CITY — As fireworks start going on sale Sunday, city and fire officials are urging Utahns to take extra precautions during July holidays and to remember new fireworks restrictions.
"We are expecting things to burn," said Eric Holmes, Unified Fire Authority public information officer. "If people aren't being very careful, we're going to burn things to the ground. It could be a very scary situation."
Holmes said fire officials are considering this summer's conditions as a "massive red flag" for fireworks safety because of Utah's weather pattern of high temperatures, dry air and wind.
This July, class C fireworks can only be discharged in Utah July 2-5 and 22-25 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with hours extended to midnight on Independence Day and Pioneer Day.
The allotted days are shorter than previous years after Utah lawmakers passed a fire restrictions bill, HB38, into law this winter, reducing the number of days fireworks could be discharged in July from 14 days to eight.
Under the new law, fireworks can be sold in Utah only from June 24 through July 25.
The law also gives local governments the right to restrict fireworks in hazardous areas, but does not ban aerial fireworks.
State Fire Marshal Coy Porter said people should check his agency's website, firemarshal.utah.gov, or their own city's websites for maps of updated fireworks restrictions.
“We did give communities a broader opportunity based on weather conditions to put in additional restrictions where it’s necessary, so they need to make sure they are following whatever their particular community has put together for restrictions locally,” Porter said.
Porter added that any stand or store selling fireworks should have a map of the nearby restricted areas.
- Use fireworks outdoors only.
- Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them!
- Always have water handy (a hose or buckets of water).
- Only use fireworks as intended. DO NOT try to alter them or combine them.
- Never re-light a "dud" firework (wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).
- Spectators should keep a safe distance from the fireworks. The person lighting the fireworks should wear safety glasses.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix! Have a "designated" person light fireworks.
- Only persons over age 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
- DO NOT ever use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives.
The city of Parowan decided to ban all fireworks in the city limits, effective immediately through July 23 and including the city fireworks display, according to City Manager Cleve Matheson.
"The council didn't come to this decision lightly," Matheson said.
He noted they are still working to repair the damage to the city's pressurized irrigation system caused by a fire last August, which caused lawns and fields to be especially dry, creating more fire hazards.
"From the responses I've been receiving, it's been positive," Matheson said. "From a patriotic standpoint, I love fireworks just as much as anybody, but I would hate to explain to somebody why their house burnt down from a public fireworks display."
West Jordan is also enforcing stricter fireworks policies this July, banning fireworks in at-risk areas, including all areas west of state Route 111 and all areas within 200 feet of Bingham Creek. The full list of the city's restrictions can be found at westjordan.utah.gov/firemarshall. The site says it is a Class B Misdemeanor to violate these restrictions and may result in penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
"We want everyone to have a really safe and happy holiday," Holmes said. "If we can just impart on people to take an extra moment of time to make sure everything is done safely and appropriately, that might avoid some pretty tragic things."
Holmes offered a string of advice for being careful around fireworks: Set them off in an open area, ideally on pavement; keep kids at least 20-30 feet away; keep a hose or a bucket nearby; and be careful where you're aiming fireworks, especially aerials.
The increased fire danger from prolonged drought and dry vegetation prompted more fire restrictions in southern Utah by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and others. For the full list of those increased restrictions, go to utahfireinfo.gov.
Heather McLean, fire prevention technician for the U.S. Forest Service in Utah, confirmed that fireworks are never allowed on any forest land in Utah and said there are also current temporary restrictions on campfires in Utah forests.
Provo Fire Chief James Miguel said he wants to ask people in the city to be "extraordinarily safe" around fireworks this summer, as the city has already experienced a few fires up Provo Canyon.
"We're anticipating a really difficult fire season," Miguel said. "Make sure you are discharging fireworks in a place that is a hard surface, driveway, street, some place like that."
Provo had two significant fires caused by fireworks last July, Miguel said, along with multiple smaller incidents involving burns and other injuries. Miguel said the new date restrictions should reduce the amount of similar future incidents.
Provo's restrictions for fireworks cover the eastern strip of neighborhoods and other areas close to the mountains. The Provo restrictions map with more specifics can be found at Provo.org.
Of people involved in fireworks accidents and incidents, Miguel said, "they're of all ages, but they're typically teens or youth. Very rarely are adults involved." Consequently, adults should be vigilant about supervising their kids around fireworks, he said.
Both Holmes and Miguel said when it comes to personal safety and fire prevention, they would suggest people enjoy the holidays by skipping the fireworks sales stands and opting for public professional fireworks shows instead.