TAYLORSVILLE — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams suggested Monday — the first day discharging fireworks in Utah is legal this month — that residents should consider not setting off their own fireworks.
"Based on the conditions that we see, the dry conditions and the windy conditions, this might be a year to think of maybe even not setting off fireworks — choosing not to do so, and just spending time with family being safe and not a risk to our community," McAdams said.
But if residents do choose to set off their own fireworks, they should exercise extra caution and be aware of new time period and geographical restrictions this year, McAdams said at a news conference at the Unified Fire Authority station in Taylorsville.
A map showing Salt Lake County's geographical fireworks restrictions can be found at unifiedfire.org and slcoem.org. Utah residents can also find nearby fire restrictions by going to their city's website. Maps of restrictions will also be posted at all stores and stands selling fireworks.
Because of a new fire restrictions bill, HB38, passed by Utah lawmakers this winter, the number of allotted days fireworks can be discharged in July dropped from 14 to eight. Class C fireworks can only be discharged 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.
"Be aware that if the weather gets bad, we do have the ability to further restrict where we're going to ban fireworks," Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Peterson said. "Our fire marshals here are working with their cities to kind of determine what the weather looks like, so the map could shrink in the available area based on the weather conditions."
Peterson said people breaking fireworks restrictions can be charged with a criminal fine up to a $1,000 plus damages.
"If you operate outside of the window of time or operate fireworks inside of a restricted area, you are assumed to be negligent, and you're actually subject to basically repaying all the damages that might occur," Peterson said.
Peterson confirmed that even if someone checked the restrictions beforehand, found an area not restricted, and then lit off fireworks there the next day without checking the map again, the map could have changed to restrict the area they are in and they could be charged as negligent.
"At this point, I don't believe there's a cap (on damages fines) at all, so if you start a fire and you're in a restricted area, and it burns up Emigration Canyon, for instance, and it takes out a group of homes, you're at significant risk," he said.
Peterson said that if any Utah city does end up increasing restrictions, the news will be broadcast widely.
"There are very good reasons (fireworks) are restricted in the areas that they are because they're within a higher than normal risk of fire and fire damage," McAdams said.
Safe and smart suggestions
Peterson shared a list of safe and smart suggestions for using fireworks: make sure what you buy is legal; read the directions on how to use it; make sure there is always a responsible adult present; don't try to relight a dud; and clear a pathway to get out of the way after lighting.
"These fireworks can be safe if done properly," Peterson said.
Peterson added that even if someone is setting off fireworks in a legal area, they should assess the area around them, including wind and dry plants, to make sure it's safe.
"It's a great time to spend with family and friends, be outdoors and barbecue, and really celebrate what makes this state, what makes this country, a great place," McAdams said. "But nothing will spoil family fun like fire damage or injury."