In our opinion: City governments should sear fire restrictions into the public conscience
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Despite the well-publicized warnings, the extraordinary damage already done and the plain obviousness of the danger, there still will be those who will act with less than reasonable caution when it comes to outdoor fire safety.
In other words, this nerve-jangling summer of combustibility is far from over, and the sad reality is, barring any miraculous change of course, there will be more fires accidentally triggered by people who should know better.
Behavior can be regulated only so far, so we are left with only a few options. Warnings should be loud and plentiful. Restrictions for use of fireworks should be placed wherever danger is even moderately high, and those restrictions should be enforced and violators held accountable.
As for the warnings, it's hard to imagine anyone not accidentally locked in a closet for the past week isn't aware of what a single spark can do in the vicinity of parched hillsides and desiccated fields. Already, thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, and in many places the orange haze of still-burning acreage is a fixture on the horizon.
As for restrictions, the state has banned fireworks in all unincorporated areas, a bold but necessary move. As for municipalities and townships, many have issued restrictions, though some have been more effective in getting the word out than others.
Residents of Salt Lake City should be aware of where the lines have been drawn. The city of South Jordan has taken efforts to inform citizens of fireworks restrictions, as have North Salt Lake and Herriman — as a few examples. But a quick scan of other municipal websites reveals few mentions of whether restrictions exist, or where they might be.
City governments would be wise to follow the state's lead and get the word out about any rules within their boundaries. It also wouldn't hurt to include another gentle reminder to act with common sense wherever people may find themselves recreating or celebrating.
Finally, there is a need in this year of peculiar danger for law enforcement to be vigilant in enforcing restrictions. Gov. Gary Herbert has pledged those who cause fires will be held liable under a state statute that allows authorities to try to recoup the costs of a fire from those who set it. In the past, that law has not been frequently prosecuted.
And no law enforcement agencies have thus far said they will step up patrols to monitor fireworks use. Typically, there are more important matters for police to concentrate on, but a more aggressive posture may be justified this year by the extreme nature of the risk.
A few well-placed citations for setting off fireworks in a restricted area may at least give others a reason to think twice before they do the same.
We are months away from the respite of a cooler season. As small children, we learned early not to play with fire. In the beginning stages of what will be a long and dangerously hot summer, we can only hope the same lesson is seared into the public conscience.
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