Park City readies fireworks ban amid hot, dry start to summer | ParkRecord.com

Park City readies fireworks ban amid hot, dry start to summer

Park City anticipates it will enact a ban on fireworks and open flames such as campfires within days, an action that had been expected as dry weather prevailed in the early part of the summer after a winter of scant snowfall.

It is not unusual for City Hall to enact bans, but there seems to be broader worries this summer as a result of the relatively dry winter. The snow melted unusually early, giving vegetation time to grow. Dry vegetation provides the fuel for wildfires.

The ban could be enacted as early as June 21. City Hall staffers hold the power to enact the ban. It is not required to be put to the Park City Council for a vote, but officials would widely publicize any enactment and provide details at that time. Bans sometimes stretch throughout the summer and into the fall.

Mike McComb, the emergency program manager at City Hall, pointed to the weather conditions as he said a ban is anticipated.

"There's concern for just the general relative lack of moisture, the abundance of fuels, the early heat," McComb said, adding, "It's going to be an interesting fire season."

The timing of a ban would ensure the restrictions are in place well before Independence Day and more than a month prior to the Pioneer Day holiday, which is also celebrated with fireworks. The professional community fireworks displays are not impacted by a ban, but they could be reconsidered if the conditions are especially dangerous.

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Park City officials have for years worried that a firework could spark a devastating wildfire. A neighborhood like Old Town is tightly packed as it climbs the hillsides while a location like Deer Valley stretches through heavily wooded terrain. The skiing infrastructure in the Park City area is also susceptible to a wildfire.

Open flames like campfires have also long been disconcerting as officials worry the flames could spread to the ground or trees, starting a similar disaster. Fires are sometimes the prime concern when homeless camps or youngster hangouts are found in the hills.

The Park City Fire District, which provides firefighting services in Park City and the Snyderville Basin, also is monitoring the weather and vegetation situation. Most of Park City has a high potential of wildfires at the lower elevations while there is an extreme potential along S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 since the winds in those places evaporate moisture more quickly, according to the Fire District. The danger at the upper elevations is low to moderate, but conditions can deteriorate quickly, the Fire District says.

"Without precipitation, it certainly will worsen," Fire Chief Paul Hewitt said, describing his concern as "above average" and saying he supports City Hall's anticipated ban.

The danger will likely be high by the Fourth of July, the Fire District says.

The National Interagency Fire Center, a federal service, indicates the potential of a significant wildfire in Summit County is normal in June. The potential, though, is expected to worsen to above normal in July and remain at that level in August. It is predicted to return to normal in September.