Fireworks will be allowed in most of Summit County over Fourth of July
Summit County has given residents in the unincorporated areas of the county the go-ahead to use personal fireworks over the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, citing a reduced risk for wildfires over the next couple of weeks.
Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said the county has not experienced an active enough wildfire season to warrant a ban. He said the area’s fuels are not at a critical level and the recent storms have alleviated the risk for a wildfire.
“The two fires that we have had haven’t really taken off,” he said, referencing a pair of small recent blazes in North Summit that crews quickly extinguished. “They have been more of a creeping-type of fire and not the type to drain resources. Then again, the weather conditions, with recent rain and hail, have also helped hold off fire activity.”
Enacting a ban on fireworks at the county level requires fire officials to work with the state Division of Forestry. The decision is based on several criteria, Boyer said, including the number of fires and the costs associated with suppressing them, availability of resources and weather conditions.
“We base it on science and state statute,” he said.
Fireworks are permitted on four occasions: the Fourth of July, Pioneer Day, New Year’s Eve and the Chinese New Year. A new state law reduced the number of days that fireworks are allowed on each occasion from three days before and after each of those holidays to two days. State law allows for class C fireworks, which can be purchased at grocery stores and include sparklers under 12 inches in length, snakes or glow worms, and party poppers, to be sold beginning June 24. They can be discharged between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Those hours are extended to midnight on July 4 and July 24.
Fireworks are never allowed on National Forest lands or within the boundaries of state parks, including Rockport, Echo and the Jordanelle reservoirs. The use or possession of fireworks on public lands is subject to confiscation and fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail.
Boyer emphasized that caution still needs to be exercised when igniting fireworks, advising people to avoid lighting them near dry grass or hillsides. He suggested keeping a bucket of water nearby for used fireworks.
“People need to be responsible,” he said. “If they start a fire, they can and most likely will be billed for reckless burning. They also will likely be held liable for any damage that does not occur on their property. Last year, folks in Salt Lake who caused fires ended up with court action, costs of recovery and fire suppression costs. It is being taken a whole lot more seriously.”
Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt also encouraged residents to be careful. He said conditions can change quickly, even though there is a significant amount of moisture still in the fuels.
“Fortunately we have had very few fireworks incidents,” he said. “The moisture and the rain hit at a perfect time. I would certainly accept more. But, I’m always more worried about injuries. Ninety percent of the incidents we respond to around the holidays are injuries.”
The county’s six municipalities have the authority to regulate firework use and open burning on their own. Park City enacted a ban on June 11. The ban will be in effect until it is rescinded.
“We are looking at the same conditions in the city, but the relative lack of moisture over the winter and low snowpack are the other things we look at,” said Mike McComb, Park City’s emergency manager.
Most of the municipalities in the eastern end of the county base a decision on whether to ban fireworks on state statute. As of now, the only restriction is in Coalville. The city plans to allow permitted fireworks on July 4 and July 24 only, unless conditions change.
County fire officials say they don’t expect to revisit a ban on fireworks for the unincorporated areas of Summit County until after the Fourth of July.
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On Monday morning in Hideout, leaders from Park City, Summit County and the ten-year-old Wasatch County town met over breakfast to discuss the issues the three neighbors face.