Big fines expected for those who light fireworks illegally

Jun 22, 2018, 7:29 PM | Updated: 9:20 pm

WEST JORDAN, Utah – It’s already a challenging wildfire season in Utah, and fireworks will likely cause more fires in the weeks to come. Most of our communities already have fireworks restrictions in place, and there are new statewide restrictions this year.

“It’s been a busy season already,” said Paul Brockbank, interim fire marshal for West Jordan.

Brockbank met with KSL to talk about the conditions for fires over the summer months, especially with fireworks coming up.

Looking over a field of tall, dry grass in the western part of the community, he said, “This gets to be a little concerning for the fire department.”

It’s been very hot and dry in all of our Utah neighborhoods over the last few weeks. Firefighters expected the dangerous wildfire conditions to last, because the long-term forecast looks the same.

“We’re expecting it to burn,” said Eric Holmes with the Unified Fire Authority. “It’s just a matter of when and where, and how bad.”

People who plan to shoot off legal fireworks need to make sure they’re lighting them in a legal place. Most communities have already posted restrictions.

County maps should have all been out on June 1. Municipalities have released them in recent days.

In Salt Lake County, all of the areas at the edge of the urban-wilderness interface are off-limits for fireworks, as are some neighborhoods. In West Jordan, all of the area west of U-111 is off-limits for fireworks.

“The wildland-urban interface where we have lots of dry grass and things that run through development. That’s what becomes the issue,” said Brockbank. “We don’t want to create a fire hazard in the middle of a subdivision.”

In 2017, West Jordan banned all fireworks last Pioneer Day weekend because of a fiery 4th of July and persistent dry conditions.

“It was just an extremely, extremely busy time throughout the entire valley,” said Brockbank.

“We’re expecting another bad July 4th,” said Holmes. “We want everybody to be safe and happy and celebrate their holiday. Take an extra moment to make sure that we’re doing it safely.”

In response to those fires started by fireworks last summer, state legislators gave cities and counties more authority to restrict fireworks. They also limited the number of days fireworks can be set off: now, only July 2-5 and July 22-25, cutting the number of allowable days by nearly half.

Lawmakers also raised the fine from $750 to $1000 if you’re caught violating the rules.

“People should be aware that they can be fined quite a hefty sum,” said Holmes.

That’s on top of any damages you could be responsible for if you start a fire.

West Jordan and other communities plan to be proactive and put firefighters on patrol in the days surrounding the holidays.

“They are specifically just to respond to fireworks calls,” said the fire marshal. “Two teams of two that will be out doing fireworks patrol.”

If you are lighting fireworks in a legal place, make sure you have plenty of water nearby for an emergency. If you are lighting aerial fireworks, make sure they cannot tip over and shoot sideways once you light them.

“Just be safe and sane,” said Brockbank.

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Big fines expected for those who light fireworks illegally