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Fire season and fireworks bring need for cooperation

Published: Tuesday, July 23 2013 8:10 p.m. MDT

With the 24th of July holiday comes fireworks, and with fireworks comes the risk of fire.

Ravell Call, Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — With the 24th of July holiday comes fireworks, and with fireworks comes the risk of fire.

Fireworks caused approximately 17,800 of the 1,389,500, or 1.3 percent, of fires nationwide in 2011, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.

Utah had 367 fireworks-related fires from 2002 to 2006. Many were small; others caused thousands of dollars in damage. And that's why certain areas of the state -- and in cities -- are no fireworks zones.

"I don' t think (fireworks) should be in this area," Salt Lake City resident Larry Leigh said of his Avenues neighborhood. Fireworks restrictions are in place in most of the Avenues area.

"We have a great view. We can see as many fireworks as we want," Reed Topham, another Avenues resident, said of the community fireworks celebrations.

The restrictions are necessary to prevent fires, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Department said. So far this summer, the department has responded to two fires likely caused by fireworks in restricted areas, one in Fairview Park and the other east of the University of Utah Medical Center.

"Even in areas where fireworks are legal there's still a risk," Jasen Asay, spokesperson for Salt Lake City Fire Department said. This is because of the hot summer and dry vegetation, bushes and grass.

Asay reminded citizens to use good judgment when setting off fireworks, even non-aerial ones.

Fireworks should never be lit under trees or in restricted areas, he said. With aerial fireworks, he said, there should be at least 100 feet of overhead space. Those setting off fireworks should keep buckets filled with water at the ready to completely soak spent fireworks before putting them into a garbage can.

In Salt Lake City restricted areas are marked with signs and the fire department handed out pamphlets to inform residents of restricted areas. Even with their efforts to inform the public, Asay is urging the public to take precautions.

"We understand that fireworks are a traditional way to celebrate holidays...fireworks can be safe, especially if people take precautions," Asay said.

The dry weather in parts of Orem has city officials there concerned about the potential for fires, according to Lt. Craig Martinez, public information officer for the Orem Department of Public Safety.

City employees went door to door in restricted firework areas to inform residents about fireworks safety. They left fliers on the doors of those who were not home, explaining risks and offering tips for safety.

Firefighters also plan to dispatch extra patrols during open fireworks season.

"We don't foresee there being a problem," Martinez said.

The state fire marshal's office works with cities, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands; the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Parks to identify risk areas, according to Coy Porter, State Fire Marshal for Utah. Once located, they post the information on communities the Department of Public Safety's website or on utahfireinfo.gov, in hopes of informing residents about restricted areas.

This is Utah's third year of allowing aerial fireworks for non-commercial use in Utah, Porter said. The first year was after a spring and summer with a lot of moisture. Last year, the number of fires throughout the state helped with awareness, he said, and many people chose not to purchase their own fireworks.

This year they have been "proactive," he said, in alerting people to the dangers of fireworks.

"People have really responded and been very good," he said.

Fireworks can be set off statewide through July 27. For information on fire restrictions throughout the state, visit Publicsafety.utah.gov.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

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