In coming days, some area fire authorities will announce fireworks restrictions for the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day holidays. The restrictions are common sense public safety measures because Utah is one of the most arid states in the nation. Given enough tinder-dry fuel, a single spark can quickly become an inferno.
Given that, why should fire authorities have to declare these limitations every summer? Why not pass a law banning the sale of fireworks for personal use, which cause most of these fires?
Utah has conducted this strange dance between free enterprise and public safety long enough. Between the burden of accidentally setting fires and the risks of severe injuries from fireworks, there's no upside to private fireworks, let alone the illegal fireworks brought into the state.
Over the years, Utah has banned the more dangerous types of fireworks. That makes sense on a lot of levels, but it does not eliminate the possibility of an errant spark igniting a fire.
At the same time, professional displays put on by municipalities or private organizations have become increasingly spectacular. If the family wants to see fireworks, there are literally dozens of such displays in Utah between the two July holidays. They're breathtaking, and the risk is limited to the professionals who conduct the shows.
Interestingly, many Utahns view setting off fireworks as a right. Each time a Deseret News editorial broaches the subject, readers typically respond in one of two ways: They view any suggested ban as an infringement of their personal freedoms, or they support a year-round ban on fireworks because of the risk of injury and fires. We maintain the latter trumps the former.
It strikes us as odd that for the majority of the year fireworks are illegal, presumably for the hazards they pose. But at the time of year when temperatures are hottest and plant life parched, they're OK, within certain parameters.
Existing restrictions vary by fire district or jurisdiction. An all-out state ban would alleviate that confusion. It also would curb injuries and reduce the workload of firefighting agencies.
For some, setting off fireworks is a cherished family tradition. Wouldn't families be better served by traditions that keep their loved ones safe and that protect property from harm?