Personal fireworks will likely be allowed for the Fourth of July
After cool, wet weather early this week, personal fireworks are likely to be allowed this Fourth of July in Park City and the unincorporated parts of Summit County, fire officials said, but they noted that a ban could come at any time and that the decision is dependent on conditions.
Fireworks are allowed in Utah on fewer than a dozen days each year surrounding specific holidays. The first period is July 2-5.
Fireworks are never allowed on land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, meaning a Fourth of July camping trip to the Uintas should not include sparklers.
Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said he doesn’t think a ban is likely for the Fourth based on what he’s seen in recent fire behavior. In 2018, however, amid much drier and hotter conditions, a ban came on July 3.
Boyer said there have been around 30 wildfires in the county so far this year including a nearly 20-acre blaze last weekend in the ledges above Henefer. That fire burned through the cheatgrass, or Junegrass, easily, just as it did the leaf litter in the underbrush, Boyer said, leading the fire to spread and threaten a larger area. But it didn’t burn the living brush plants, a sign he said was encouraging. It also burned much stronger in higher elevations, but closer to the valley the vegetation was still relatively green and had held enough moisture to resist burning.
“Not looking at any restrictions at this point based on fuel moisture and what we’ve been seeing with fire activity,” Boyer said. “(People should) use caution and make sure they’re not doing it near cheatgrass/June grass.”
Park City Fire Code Official Dave Thacker said the city does not plan to impose an open flame or fireworks ban prior to the Fourth of July, either.
Cheatgrass is an invasive species that turns purple in June and then brown, drying out and dying seemingly regardless of the ground’s moisture content, providing easy fuel for fires, according to Utah State University.
In addition to cheatgrass, pinyon pines are also in danger of spreading fire, Boyer said.
Park City Fire District Marshal Mike Owens said despite the recent wet weather, the area’s fire season is still predicted to be an average one. He explained that means the area’s vegetation will likely be as susceptible to wildfire as in an average year based on moisture content, predicted weather patterns and other factors.
He said the area has advantages compared to the rest of the state because plants tend to stay wetter because of the higher elevation but that persistent winds have increased the risk.
“High winds have wreaked havoc this year, (they suck) the moisture out pretty quick,” he said.
Fireworks are banned in federally controlled lands like national forests and also state parks like the Rockport, Echo and Jordanelle reservoirs. Anyone who uses or has fireworks on public lands is subject to fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail, plus confiscation. And anyone found responsible for starting a wildfire can be held civilly and criminally liable.
In addition to the Fourth of July, fireworks are permitted on three other occasions in Utah: Pioneer Day, New Year’s Eve and the Chinese New Year. A 2018 state statute reduced the number of days that fireworks can be used to the following: July 2-5, July 22-25, Dec. 31 and on the Chinese New Year, usually in late January or early February. Violations can result in a fine of up to $1,000.
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