Fire restrictions passed | ParkRecord.com

Fire restrictions passed

Aaron Osowski, The Park Record

Park City residents will not be able to enjoy fires and fireworks this summer. The City Council on Thursday banned open fires and the individual use of fireworks for this year’s fire season. The firework ban does not include sparklers and snakes.

The ban will last until Oct. 31. The city’s geography and high fire risk are the main reasons for the decision.

"We live in a significant fire hazard almost every season," said Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt.

However, Hewitt also noted, "We’ve had quite a bit less fire up to this point." Hewitt said there were already 90 reported fires through mid-June of 2012. This year, only 30 have been reported.

"At this time last year, we had smoke coming up over the mountains from other adjoining states clear out into Washington. It’s a much better start to the fire season than what we had last year," Hewitt said.

Hewitt did not downplay the fire risk to his area. On Wednesday, he told the Summit County Council that the 110 square mile area he oversees is "extremely dry and firework restrictions need to be put into place to keep residents safe," according to a Summit County press release.

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The rationale, Hewitt said, is that the geography of the Park City area is mainly mountainous and brush-covered and thus is more at risk for fire. A firework and open fire ban is not being proposed for the East side of Summit County, as the vegetation is still mainly green.

Summit County Manager Bob Jasper, who met with Hewitt as well as Summit District Fire Warden Bryce Boyer on Wednesday, agreed.

"The geography of the county is diverse and a one-size fits all approach to firework restrictions does not necessarily work this year," Jasper said, according to the Summit County press release. "Several areas on the east side of the county remain green and pose no significant threat at this time."

Park City Emergency Program Manager Hugh Daniels, who helped write the staff report proposing to ban firework use, pointed out that even all of that green can be deceiving.

"Even though we’ve got green, we’ve got an awful lot of fuel left over from last year and the year before," Daniels said. "You end up with fuel that is matted down under the new green, so we’ve got a couple years of fuel that’s built up with not a lot of water."

Boyer said he would continue to monitor the fire hazard situation for the county.

"That doesn’t mean we could have ten straight days of dry weather with high winds and would need to change our recommendation and ban fireworks use on the east side too," Boyer said, according to the release.

Jasper noted the County Council’s strict stance on open fires and fireworks last year.

"Towards the end, we were maybe not even in accordance with state law," Jasper said. "We just felt we had to do what we had to do because the fire risk was so high."

Hewitt wanted to expedite the firework ban owing to the fact that no measurable precipitation is expected in the next 10 days. Public firework displays, however, will not be banned.

"We are going to allow public displays for the time being," Hewitt said. "We’re hoping the weather cooperates so that we can continue to allow those."

Jasper said the County will continue to watch the weather closely over the next 10 to 20 days and will act accordingly should the fire risk increase.

For more information about how to practice safe habits during fire season, visit http://www.firewise.org.

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