Utah Fire Officials Expect Busy Night With Fourth Of July Fireworks
Jul 4, 2019, 7:50 PM
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Even with the cooler temperatures and rainstorms, fire officials along the Wasatch Front expect a busy Fourth of July night because of fires started by fireworks.
“We’re expecting a long and crazy night,” said Ryan Love with Unified Fire Authority. “Every year we stay up until about three in morning anticipating the next call.”
Unified Fire is in charge of fire suppression for 14 municipalities in Salt Lake County, as well as unincorporated areas of the county. Officials said previous years have shown they can expect a more than 1,000 percent increase in fire-related responses on the holiday.
Last year, Unified Fire dispatched 85 crews to respond to fires or other incidents on July 4. In 2017, the number was even higher, with 99 crews called out. For comparison, in all of 2018 the agency had an average of 6.3 calls per day – less than a tenth of the calls on the holiday.
To handle the expected increase, Unified Fire has called in 16 extra firefighters and 4 brush trucks.
Fire departments in #Utah are worried about crews being stretched thin on this #4thofJuly Unified Fire expects a 1,000% increase in the number of fire-related responses. MORE on this story at 5pm on @KSL5TV #IndependenceDay @KSLcom @kslnewsradio pic.twitter.com/Q4UBwb06yV
— Ladd Egan (@laddegan) July 4, 2019
The worry is that there may be a false sense of security this year because of the lower-than-average temperatures and near-record amounts of rainfall in the spring.
That could have some people believing that there’s a diminished fire danger.
“In fact it’s the opposite,” Love said. “There’s more growth. There’s more possibility for things to light on fire and because of that we want people to be more mindful, especially this Fourth of July—and the wind outside doesn’t help either.”
Layton City’s fire department is already experiencing an increase in activity.
During a 48-hour period ending Thursday morning, crews took 61 calls for service. During the same timeframe last year, crews only responded to 31 calls.
“We sent home some tired firefighters after the last two days,” said Battalion Chief Jason N. Cook with Layton City Fire Department. “They ran about three days’ worth of calls over a two-day period.”
Some of those incidents were related to fireworks, Cook said. He asks residents to use caution so that fire crews don’t get overwhelmed.
“We run into circumstances where our crews get stretched so thin, that had that next call in, we would have been reliant on one of our bordering communities to do mutual aid with us,” Cook said. “(That) unfortunately increases response times to whatever that 911 may have been.”