The Park Record editorial, July 6-8, 2011
July 5, 2011
Summit County escaped any fire-related incidents over the Fourth of July weekend, but emergency personnel are not letting their guard down. New fireworks rules that loosen previous restrictions, combined with heavy vegetation nourished by a wet spring, are keeping them on high alert.
Salt Lake City firefighters weren’t so lucky. The weekend began with a runaway blaze above Red Butte Gardens, likely ignited by an abandoned campfire. Additional problems flared up in the valley when a family carelessly allowed a firecracker to set their own garage on fire.
In Summit County, vigilant neighbors reported intermittent sparklers and fireworks in places they didn’t belong, and professionals handled the bigger displays at Canyons and in Park City and Oakley.
Still, the next three to four months promise to be challenging ones for preventing wildland fires. New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona have already experienced major conflagrations disrupting travel, calling for evacuations and costing hundreds and thousands of dollars in damages. Utah could easily suffer the same fate.
One of the biggest worries is the extension of the period during which that people can legally set off fireworks. Previously, fireworks were limited to the Fourth of July and 24th of July holiday weekends, giving firefighters and frightened animals a couple of weeks’ respite in between amateur bottle rocket and sparkler extravaganzas in the neighborhood. Now, local pyromaniacs can fire them up anytime from now through July 25.
Not only that, but the state legislature this year eased the restrictions on the types of fireworks that are permissible, allowing the use of cake fireworks that can shoot sparks higher into the air. Last winter, when the mountains were blanketed in snow, that may have seemed reasonable, but now that the grass- and brush-covered hillsides are drying out, their decisions seems foolhardy.
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But, fireworks aside, there are plenty of other culprits including campfires, cigarettes, cars, trains and lightning. Summit County has seen its share of each. Last summer the origin of a fast-moving brush fire on the Aerie was traced to a carelessly tossed cigarette alongside a popular hiking trail.
Residents and visitors will have to be especially vigilant for the rest of the summer. That means no campfires except in designated fire pits, clearing brush and deadwood away from homes adjacent to wildlands and, of course, using extreme caution with fireworks.
Let’s see if our county can get through the summer without having the skies darkened by smoke and fire retardants.