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Utah governor: Skip out on personal fireworks this summer

Gov. Spencer Cox, at podium, surrounded by state and city leaders, calling on Utahns not to launch fireworks. Photo: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s governor joined a growing list of elected officials Wednesday calling on Utahns not to light personal fireworks this summer, because of extreme drought and fire danger. 

Gov. Spencer Cox said with 457 wildfires in Utah already this year, personal fireworks just aren’t worth the risk. Compare that with 2020, where there were 510 wildfires for the entire year. 

Plus, Utah isn’t the only state seeing increased fire activity.  Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Petersen says over half of the country’s wildfire agencies are already committed to other blazes, so there might not be enough resources to reach Utah if another wildfire starts here.

Urban fires more volatile than before

Petersen says the conditions are so dry, fire in urban areas won’t behave the way most people would expect.

“Any ignition around your home has the potential to spread much faster than, maybe, you’ve seen before,” Petersen said.  “I think you’ll be surprised how fast it’s going to move.”

In Ogden, a human-caused fire destroyed an apartment complex that was under construction, along with several homes, businesses and vehicles.  Mayor Mike Caldwell says crews needed a lot of resources to put it out.

“We used over 1.5 million gallons of water to put that down,” Petersen said. 

“If I could issue a ban on personal fireworks, I would” 

The exceptional drought and extreme fire potential has Cox pleading with all Utahns to skip launching personal fireworks through the July holidays, suggesting people should wait until New Year’s Day to light them.

“Many have said I should just ban fireworks, statewide.  As governor, my hands are tied on that one.  As I’ve said before, if I could issue a ban on personal fireworks, I would,” Cox said. 

Cox says he supports municipalities who argue that state statutes give them the authority to issue their own bans.  He says legislators want to take a closer look at the state law regarding fireworks bans, but he won’t call for a special session.  Cox doesn’t believe there’s enough agreement about possible bans for a special session to be productive.

“I can call a special session, but that doesn’t mean they have to show up.  It doesn’t mean they have to do anything.  So, I think that would be a mistake,” he said.

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