Fire officials urge fun, safe Fourth of July celebrations

Published: Monday, July 1 2013 6:40 p.m. MDT

Sandy firefighters demonstrate a water-powered oscillating monitor during a press conference about fireworks safety in Sandy, Monday, July 1. The monitor is a preventive watering tool being used in areas where fire is a concern.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SANDY — Now that fireworks season is officially underway, fire officials are working to make sure Utahns know how and where they can legally celebrate with the noisy and sparkly displays.

“Our main goal is we want folks to be safe,” Sandy Fire Battalion Chief Robert DeKorver said Monday, the first day Utahns could begin discharging fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July. “We want them to have fun, but we hope the (residents) of Sandy city realize that we are in an extreme fire danger season this year."

In preparation for fireworks season, Sandy fire officials have been posting fliers and handing out business cards with QR codes that lead directly to an interactive map letting residents know where they can and can't discharge fireworks.

“Basically, everything above 2700 East, no fireworks are allowed during this fireworks season due to the fact that that is where the majority of our 3,600 acres of wildland urban interface exist,” DeKorver said.

“If you’re found to be lighting fireworks in those areas, you will actually have a visit from either a fire official or a police officer. They will educate you on the areas that are prohibited. Continual lighting of fireworks in those areas could result in a fine of $500,” he said.

DeKorver said it will be up to fire officials and police officers patrolling the restricted areas to determine the line between a warning and a citation.

“Our main goal is to try to educate, and if they continue to do it, then we’re going to have to induct the issue in a citation," He said. "But we would love to end up getting the education done prior to going the legal route of things.”

Other cities throughout Utah are also taking precautions by restricting fireworks during the summer holidays.

Fireworks are allowed for three days before and after the Fourth of July between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. On the Fourth of July, residents can light fireworks until midnight, Cline said.

The wildland urban interface — where houses are built on or near heavily wooded land — is receiving special attention from fire officials because of the potential for large wildfires, said Bruce Cline, Sandy's deputy fire chief.

Cline said the greenery of wildland trees and brush can be deceiving, and sometimes people may not be aware of the dangers of the dry season combined with fireworks.

At a news conference Monday, Sandy fire officials demonstrated the technology being used to prevent and contain wildfires in areas of concern.

About 500 gallons of water per minute jetted over a field of brush at the Dimple Dell Nature Park. Sandy firefighters showed how the water-powered oscillating monitor could be used as a preventative watering tool in wildland areas such as Dimple Dell.

The tool can be left unmanned so firefighters can avoid unnecessary risk while still containing dangerous wildfires, DeKorver said.

Sandy fire officials also have been passing out brochures with information addressing safety issues in the event of a fire in the wildland interface area, focusing on the Wasatch Mountains and Dimple Dell Nature Park.

The brochures also provide information on how to best prevent and respond to a wildfire threatening a home. Among other fire safety tips, the brochure advises to clean out rain gutters and remove overhanging shrubs or trees that could spread a fire to the structure. The brochure also explains the importance of leaving before becoming trapped, what to bring and how to be prepared.

If fireworks were to go out of control, DeKorver advises against approaching them. Once fireworks are ignited, they won’t be able to be extinguished until they finishes their cycle, he said.

“We often get a lot of people that say, ‘It was a small fire. We thought that we could handle it,’ and it ended up growing very rapidly because of the dry conditions,” DeKorver said. “It’s best, if you see a fire starting, to call 911 immediately, get the fire department rolling your way so we can get an early attack on that fire instead of letting it grow beyond our abilities.”

Cline said residents should put spent fireworks in a bucket of water to cool during the night to prevent garbage can fires.

People also can water down dry areas and clear ignition spaces before lighting fireworks, he said.

Fire officials have also passed out information about prohibited areas to local fireworks stands.

Ben North, manager of the TNT Fireworks stand near 1300 East and 10300 South, said he, too, has been working to inform his customers.

North said he makes sure to point out the prohibited areas map and create a dialogue with his customers about safety.

“This is a business," he said. "However, nothing is more important than making sure that the public’s best interest is priority No. 1. … Ultimately, this is where we live, too, and we want it to be a safe place.”

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

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