Homeowner stages protest at State Capitol; wants ban on aerial fireworks

May 14, 2018, 7:20 PM | Updated: 10:25 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A man who nearly lost his home to a fire caused by fireworks last July 4th protested at the State Capitol, saying state did not go far enough with its new fireworks restrictions. He has called for a ban on aerial fireworks.

Dave Schoeneck of Cottonwood Heights said he doesn’t want anyone to go through the ordeal he endured last summer.

“I just don’t want to go through this again,” he said. “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this again. More importantly, I don’t want anyone to die.”

Last Independence Day, Dave Schoeneck’s family lost a piece of their independence. They spent four months out of their home after a firework set the 50-acre field next to their house on fire.

Schoeneck said Monday he thinks the state should go back to a ban on aerial fireworks, and establish penalties for neighbors who let their properties become a fire hazard.

“If they can shoot them off, and it’s not a professional, they can do the damage that was done to our home,” he said, referring to aerial fireworks which were allowed after new rules were passed in 2011.

Schoeneck took a coffin to the lawn of the Utah Capitol to represent lives that could be lost in wildfires like the one that nearly took out his home last year.

In response to a surge in fireworks fires last summer, state legislators expanded areas where fireworks can be restricted. They also limited the days fireworks can be set off – now only July 2-5 and July 22-25, cutting the number of allowable days by nearly half.

“To me that’s basically a Band-Aid on a gushing artery,” said Schoeneck. “It’s not going to suffice when you live in a desert climate.”

He also said he wants tougher laws to force private landowners, like the one next door to his property, to take responsibility for overgrown fire hazards.

“Over a decade I’ve been calling this company that owns the field,” he said.

Schoneck wanted the owner to trim back the trees, grass and bushes to a safer height.

State Fire Marshal Coy Porter said homeowners should work through their municipalities, through their weed ordinance, to take care of that issue.

Schoeneck said he has done that with little success.

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this again. More importantly, I don’t want anyone to die.”

New provisions in the fireworks laws, however, would allow Schoeneck to recoup losses after a fire started as a result of property neglect.

“In the case of a fire, they do have civil recourse to try to reclaim any damages to their property,” said Porter.

The new law also provides greater civil recourse against anybody who starts a damaging fire with a firework.

“There are criminal penalties for the use of illegal fireworks, as well as using legal fireworks outside the window when they are allowed,” said Porter, who added that the new restrictions should cut down on fireworks fires this year.

Schoeneck, however, said the state should do more about stopping the fire hazard next door on the front end.

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Homeowner stages protest at State Capitol; wants ban on aerial fireworks