Fear of blaze sparks talks of Park City fireworks ban | ParkRecord.com

Fear of blaze sparks talks of Park City fireworks ban

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council are scheduled to discuss a fireworks ban at a meeting on Thursday. A vote could be cast on Thursday or at a meeting next week.

Officials are worried about the prospects of wildfires, saying that conditions are expected to worsen even after the recent rains.

The City Hall ban would prohibit someone from using consumer fireworks in Park City. Sparklers and snake-style novelty devices would not be covered by the ban. The action would also prohibit open fires in Park City.

Hugh Daniels, the emergency manager at City Hall, said in an interview the wildfire danger as of the middle of June is not high. The conditions could worsen quickly, though, he said. The recent rains helped temporarily alleviate the situation, but they are "not a problem solver," he said.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday predicted warm, dry weather in Park City over the next six days, topping out at a forecasted 89 degrees on Monday.

He said vegetation that fuels wildfires, such as sagebrush, scrub oak and trees, have very low moisture content. The moisture content of larger vegetation is at a record low, Daniels said, describing that the low moisture content makes the vegetation more susceptible to fires. There is grass left from last year and grass that grew this year can dry out quickly, he said. Daniels also noted that 2015 is the fifth consecutive year of drought in the area.

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"Higher elevation fuels are particularly dry this year. The dry winter has increased the curing or drying of fuels earlier than usual and the May rains have increased grass growth adding to carry-over dry grasses from 2014," City Hall staffers, including Daniels, wrote in a report submitted to the mayor and City Council in anticipation of the meeting on Thursday.

The report indicated City Hall enacted similar measures prohibiting fireworks four times since 2007, including in 2014. Conditions were similar in those years, the report said. A ban this year could run until Oct. 31, covering Pioneer Day as well as Independence Day. The City Council could lift a ban later if conditions warrant.

The professional fireworks display on July 4 at Park City Mountain Resort remains planned. It could be canceled if conditions worsen by then, the report says.

The Thursday meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Marsac Building. The elected officials are expected to take testimony.

In an interview, Paul Hewitt, the chief of the Park City Fire District, said the low snow totals last winter meant water did not seep into the soil. There were more dangerous fire conditions in past years, but he pointed to the possibility of hot, dry and windy weather.

"It could become very dangerous," he said.

The County Courthouse is monitoring the fire danger. Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said staffers have spoken internally about considering a ban on fireworks. He said the discussions will continue. He said he was not sure by early in the week whether Summit County leaders will be presented with a ban.

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