SALT LAKE CITY — New fireworks laws could bring a big bang to the new year, but they could also get you busted.
This year, Utahns were legally allowed to set off aerial fireworks for both the Independence Day and Pioneer Day holidays, as well as for New Year's holiday. Smaller ground fireworks have been legal in Utah for years, while firecrackers, M-80's, cherry bombs, roman candles and the like are still illegal.
But, the Utah Department of Public Safety said some local agencies had disseminated misleading information stating that the law had changed when fireworks were legal to discharge in Utah.
"These press releases state that Utahns can legally light fireworks now, however, they can only be lit on New Year's Eve and New Year's (Day) legally," said DPS spokesman Dwayne Baird in an email.
According to Coy Porter, chief deputy fire marshal for Utah, the confusion arose in the wake of the Legislature's decision earlier this year to alter the laws governing fireworks use in Utah.
"During the Fourth of July timeframe, you were able to discharge fireworks the entire time they were for sale," he explained. That meant that people could set off fireworks from the end of June to almost the end of July, he said.
Porter noted that the big differences for the New Year's holiday was the length of time fireworks could be sold — just the week before New Year's Eve — and the time fireworks could be set off, which are only Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
"People were a little confused … in the summer we bought them and discharged them," he said. "But that's not the case with (New Year's)."
While the new law does allow more freedom in some ways, there is a proposal under consideration that would put a few more constraints on fireworks usage, particularly in the summer. HB33 — amendments to the Fire Prevention and Fireworks Act — would limit the amount of time fireworks could be sold and discharged statewide.
The amendment would modify the current law to allow discharge of fireworks three days before and three days after July 4 and July 24, as well as the actual holidays themselves — seven days total per holiday. An additional change would set a statewide time standard for when fireworks could be discharged each day — from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Porter said the changes are aimed at providing a safe environment for enthusiasts and a less disruptive experience for residents. However, some fireworks enthusiasts believe the proposal would be too constraining.
"It would be nice to have something a little more in between," said Lehi resident Troy Sheffield. "Maybe four or five days before and after. Three seems a little tight."
Meanwhile, the current law turned out to be quite a blessing for one soon-to-be bride. Lindsay Bickmore took the advantage of the opportunity to pick up some sparklers from a Sandy fireworks tent Wednesday to use in her wedding ceremony on Thursday — something she had always dreamed of.
"I like fireworks. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday," she said. "I say do them on New Year's, too."
Porter said if everyone adheres to the new laws and discharges their fireworks appropriately, then the goal of the new rules to create a more fun, yet safe atmosphere would have been met.
"Everyone likes to have a nice fireworks show and celebrate these holidays," he said. "We just need to do it with a lot of common sense and awareness."