Editorial: Summit County wildfire threat necessitates extra firework caution
The Fourth of July is still two weeks away, but a few Parkites have apparently begun the festivities early.
The Park City Police Department earlier in the week received a series of reports of people lighting off fireworks in Prospector. Beyond being a nuisance to neighbors and skirting Utah law that says residents can only discharge fireworks in July on certain days surrounding the Independence Day and Pioneer Day holidays, lighting fireworks in Park City right now is simply irresponsible.
Wildfire conditions are worsening as the vegetation that grew as a result of an early snow melt this spring dries out. The situation is severe enough that Park City officials are preparing a ban on fireworks this summer. And while Summit County officials say a countywide ban is not likely for the Fourth of July, they urge residents to use extra caution.
Abiding by the prohibition in Park City and taking extra precautions elsewhere in Summit County — for starters, waiting until July 2, the first day lighting fireworks is legal — will be critical. Wildfire season has just begun, but there are already indications that we could be in for a dangerous stretch through the end of summer. Firefighters have had to extinguish a pair of small blazes in eastern Summit County, and larger ones have developed in other parts of the state, including a human-caused fire that destroyed eight homes in Moab.
Gathering in the driveway at dusk to light off fireworks is a treasured part of the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day fun. The smell alone is enough to elicit a wave of nostalgia. But celebration can quickly turn catastrophic. And all it takes is one errant spark.
For a reminder of the devastation wildfires can cause, Summit County residents only have to look back to 2013. That summer, a blaze caused by lightning charred roughly 2,000 acres, destroying eight homes and more than a dozen other buildings and vehicles. It was fortunate that no one was hurt.
Officials have long feared that a similarly sized blaze in a more densely populated area, such as Park City’s Old Town, would be dramatically worse.
Given that risk, ignoring the impending fireworks ban in Park City would be unacceptable. And in the rest of the county, people are better off stowing their fireworks for next year if they have even the slightest hesitation about the wildfire danger.
Even if residents don’t light their own pyrotechnics, they’ll be able to get their fill at professional displays, such as the ones scheduled at Park City Mountain Resort on July 3 and 4. And by avoiding the wildfire risk, they’ll have one more reason to celebrate.
For more information about fireworks laws and safety, visit https://firemarshal.utah.gov/department-services/fireworks/.
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Our view: Pushing to protect watersheds in the Uinta Mountains would cost Summit County time and resources. But it can’t afford to do nothing.