It may be time to change the way we celebrate the Fourth of July.
Utah's State Forester has not banned fireworks this Fourth of July, but many residents and local officials, including the chief of Park City's Fire District, wish he had.
The Park City Council has decided to err on the side of caution by banning fireworks (except those used by professionals during carefully orchestrated commercial displays) within the city limits. However, fireworks are allowed in unincorporated areas of the Park City Fire District and the entire East Side of Summit County. That includes the neighborhoods in the Snyderville Basin, many of which lie in heavily forested wildlands.
While some Parkites may be disappointed, we'd rather be safe than sorry and congratulate those council members for putting public safety before popularity. The fire conditions may not appear to be as dire during the Fourth of July in years past, but conditions vary widely.
In fact, the fire danger is probably higher in the Basin, where there is no ban, than in Park City, where the slopes are still cool and green. contrast, the cheat grass between Basin neighborhoods is already brown and brittle just waiting for an errant spark.
The fire conditions on the East Side of the county aren't any better. Several towns have already instituted watering restrictions due to the lack of precipitation and wildland subdivision residents are girding themselves for a dangerous summer.
With State Parks and National Forest areas on the East Side expecting a big influx of visitors over the holiday weekend it is important to remember that fireworks are illegal on all state and federal lands. The penalty for disobeying is stiff -- $5,000 for possessing or igniting illegal incendiary devices -- and if a person is convicted of starting a fire, he or she can be held responsible for the enormous cost of putting it out.
No one needs to tell the residents of Rockport Estates how fast a wildland fire can spread or how much damage it can cause. Last year's lightning-caused fire ripped through their neighborhood destroying several homes and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. Even without a ban, it is unlikely they will be celebrating with fires of any kind this weekend.
We'd like to believe that residents and visitors don't need a state forester to stand in for their common sense. The West has seen its share of fatal forest fires. We don't need to put our fire fighters at risk in the name of entertainment.
With a full roster of parades, concerts, rodeos and other entertainment, there's really no need to risk a wildfire.