Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
John Hollenhorst ReportingUtah's Fire Marshall says illegal fireworks are a big fire hazard. And, he hopes citizens will help enforce the law by keeping an eye on their neighbors.
But the enforcement job may be tougher lately because of some advertising coming in from out of state.
Utah is not particularly aggressive about enforcing the law. Highway Patrol troopers have been advised to be on the lookout for illegal fireworks when they stop drivers for other reasons. Still, it seems to be the kind of law that generates scofflaws.
If they explode or launch into the air, they're probably illegal in Utah. But at several stores in Evanston, Wyoming, you can buy them by the bagful and load up the car. Lots of Utahns do so this time of year.
Utah resident: "Once you cross the border it's illegal. But you can have them all you want in here. But, of course, we're going across the border with them."
Utah resident: "It just makes it a lot more fun."
Porter's Fireworks claims its customers are 75 percent Utahns this time of year. At Phantom it’s more like 90 percent. The proprietors claim they come because Wyoming stores have better prices. But do they ever try to talk Utahns out of buying items outlawed back home?
Jerry Porter/Porter's Fireworks: "No, I've never done that. That wouldn't be good for business would it? But we will teach them how to use it safely and we're the only ones up here that will."
The stores reach out to Utahns with advertising that draws customers to Wyoming. And Phantom mass-mails their catalogue. The State Fire Marshall says most of what's in it is illegal in Utah.
Gary Wise/Utah Fire Marshall: "I hate to see them entice citizens to break the law."
Phantom's manager says the catalogue goes to every state and does not encourage lawbreaking.
Shawn Wheeler/Phantom Fireworks: "We rely on the good faith of our customers to go ahead and use the fireworks where they are permitted to do so legally; and that's just where my responsibility lies at."
But her Evanston competitor is critical of the mass-mail catalogue.
Jerry Porter/Porter's Fireworks: "It's blatantly in disregard to Utah law, it's very insensitive to it. And my biggest concern is what could be the long term effect of this."
But if he fears a crackdown, he’s not to worry. Utah officials say there's little they can do about the advertising or the customers.
Gary Wise/Utah Fire Marshall: "How do you shut down the border, basically?"
However, if you're caught with illegal fireworks in Utah, the penalty is potentially severe -- up to a thousand-dollar-fine and six months in jail.