SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson showed off a new interactive map to show where a firework ban will be in place for the upcoming Fourth of July and July 24 holidays.
Wilson said there couldn’t be a full firework ban because there is a limitation to what she can do as county mayor. However, the county has been working with municipal governments on their plans of action, which is where any bans or restrictions will ultimately come from if they do.
“We are relying on our local entities to review their situations. Many have banned fireworks outright, and some are suggesting restraint,” she said on Monday.
“I just want to emphasize this grave risk and ask people just to do the right thing,” Wilson said.
“We have some great municipal shows planned and they’re done safely with a lot of experts on site. We want to celebrate through those opportunities and avoid personal firework shows,” Wilson continued.
A call for responsibility
Wilson said the Salt Lake County has created an interactive map of where a firework ban is currently in place. For Salt Lake County, all of their unincorporated lands, such as the canyons and west bench, and in areas in the foothills, fires of any kind, including fireworks, were banned by the Fire Marshall.
Clint Mecham, the Salt Lake County emergency manager and division chief with Unified Fire, said drought conditions mean this fire season could be especially bad, which is why they’re asking people to be responsible.
“We are continuing to get restrictions from our municipal partners,” Mecham said. “Just because you check today and see that you’re in an unrestricted area, doesn’t mean you won’t be tomorrow.”
Notably, Mecham says fire department there’s up to a 50% increase in calls during the July holiday season.
“I like fireworks and celebrating just as much as anybody. But if the conditions are such, it’s not worth the risk. Apply that common sense and be cognizant of your conditions, and be responsible,” Mechman advised.
Fireworks in Utah go on sale Thursday, but can only be legally used from July 2-5 and July 22-25th.
Mecham noted state law says fireworks can be lit from 11 am to midnight on July 4 and 24, but fireworks can only be lit from 11 am – 11 pm on other days.
Salt Lake County leaders urge no personal firework shows
One of the main reason, if not the main reason, fireworks have not been banned statewide is because counties, and the governor, don’t have the authority to prohibit the use fully.
So who has the power to ban fireworks statewide? The Utah Legislature.
Many state leaders, including Utah Governor Spencer Cox, have called for the legislature to ban the setting of fireworks as a means of preventing wildfires worsened by the drought. However, the legislature has showed little interested in executing the request.
In an effort to put the decision in the hands of local leaders, new legislation in Utah could let local cities set their own fireworks bans. Right now, Representative Suzanne Harrison, D-Sandy, says current legislation and statues aren’t meeting the needs of community members.
“There’s nothing the city can do about the sale of fireworks, even in banned areas, which causes a lot of confusion for residents,” Harrison told KSL NewsRadio.
That’s why she said she’s working on a new bill.
“We really need to give local communities the authority to address fireworks and place whatever restrictions city council members think are necessary to keep our communities safe,” said Harrison.
However, it’s unlikely the legislation will be up for a vote in time for firework season. But what county leaders are doing is urging Utahns to not set off fireworks this season.
“People think, ‘it’s safe here on my asphalt,’ but if that firework goes over the fence, there would be a lot of danger,” said Salt Lake County councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.
County leaders are encouraging residents to postpone their personal firework shows and opt for official displays instead.
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