WILDFIRES

Gov. Cox, officials ask all to prevent wildfires during holiday fireworks season

Jun 23, 2022, 1:43 PM | Updated: Jun 28, 2022, 6:36 pm

SALT LAKE CITYFireworks go on sale in Utah Friday, but they are not legal to light off until July 2, and only in limited areas.

On Thursday, state leaders and local firefighters gathered to remind everybody to use their FireSense to avoid catastrophic wildfires.

It’s hot, dry and windy today, and there are dry grasses and flammable fuels statewide. Last year, many Utahns were alert to the calls for caution, and it made a difference.

“Conditions are not improving,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “In fact, they’re so dry right now we really can’t afford carelessness this year.”

Utah is tinderbox dry. Conditions are primed for catastrophic wildfires, like the fires that erupted a week ago near the shores oft the Great Salt Lake.

Firefighters stand at the ready as Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, asks people to use their FireSense to avoid catastrophic fires with fireworks.

“A small spark can quickly get out of control. So please, join us in doing your part to make sure that we don’t cause human-caused wildfires,” Steed said.

The entire state is in drought; 83% in extreme drought. Last year, 115 fires started as a result of fireworks, all of which were preventable.

“The firefighters feel the pressure of summers that come a little bit earlier and last a little bit longer,” said Chief Karl Lieb with Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Everyone expects firefighters to respond, and they are ready.

“Of course, they do the best they can, but sometimes, conditions are such that they’re putting themselves in grave danger to protect homes and possibly lives,” the fire chief said.

Last year, Utahns responded, and the number of all causes of wildfires were cut in half.

”That’s about 500 fires that didn’t happen,” said Gov. Spencer Cox. “And it only takes one of those to be a million-dollar-a-day fire that causes evacuations and burns down homes.”

Fire is not the only danger from fireworks.

A report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission may throw a wet blanket on your 4th of July plans – or at least make you think about bringing a wet blanket with you just in case your family’s celebration adds to a troubling trend.

More and more Americans are sent to the emergency room after playing with fireworks. 

Most are men. Many are children. Most have burns. Many from sparklers.

In rarer situations, people are killed. The CPSC said last year, at least nine Americans died after playing with fireworks.

Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks is OK, but only where and when it’s legal and with precautions.

“Every single person in this state can make a difference,” Cox said.

The Mayor of South Jordan said she’ll enjoy the fireworks show put on by the professionals in her community, and she’s encouraging the rest of us to do the same.

“That is the safest way to enjoy fireworks this year, and I’d like to encourage you and invite you to participate in your local community celebrations,” said Dawn Ramsey, mayor of South Jordan.

Dawn Ramsey, mayor of South Jordan.

The illegal use of fireworks goes down as an infraction and could come with fines up to $1,000.

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Gov. Cox, officials ask all to prevent wildfires during holiday fireworks season