SALT LAKE CITY — High fire danger, the approach of triple-digit temperatures and the coming Independence Day celebration prompted Utah County and Salt Lake City to issue fireworks and shooting restrictions this week and has one grocery store limiting the types of fireworks it will sell.
Smith’s Food and Drug announced Wednesday that it will not sell aerial fireworks inside its stores this year because of dry conditions and the potential for wildfires.
“With the extreme heat that we are experiencing and the lack of snowpack, we just felt that it was a good decision and the right move for the community at large to try to avoid potential fire threat,” Marsh Gilford, a Smith's vice president, said.
Smith's will continue to sell “Safe and Sane” fireworks that stay near the ground, and has notified suppliers that it will return aerial fireworks already delivered to area stores.
The decision by Smith's will not severely impact consumers' ability to get aerial fireworks. Vendors like TNT Fireworks that lease space in parking lots, including Smith's parking lots, will continue to sell aerial fireworks.
“We do lease the tents that are in our parking lots and because we don’t control that company and what they sell, there may well be aerials for sell there and in other retailers,” Gilford said. “But for us, inside our stores, we just felt this was the best decision.”
TNT Fireworks contracts with nonprofit groups to sell fireworks as fundraisers, offering a percentage of the profits. TNT Fireworks regional manager Tyler Talbot said safety is a priority when it comes to fireworks.
“Safety’s the most important part,” he said. “If people use these smart there’s not going to be any problems," he said, noting restrictions put in place by area fire marshals. "So as long as they obey the rules, they should be safe.”
Associated Foods spokesman Kris Romeril said that Associated Foods is planning to sell aerial fireworks in its grocery stores.
"Safety is always one of our priorities," Romeril said. "We expect to have a great season with the fireworks and we expect our guests to have fun and use them responsibly."
The state Legislature amended the Fire Prevention and Fireworks Act in 2011 to allow certain aerial fireworks to be sold in the state, partly motivated by a desire to capture a portion of the sales lost as Utahns travel to Wyoming for fireworks, where there are fewer restrictions.
Fireworks that are deemed “Class C dangerous explosives,” such as aerial shells, Roman candles and bottle rockets, among others, remain illegal.
Utah State Fire Marshal Brent Halladay said fireworks, aerial and ground, can be safe and enjoyable.
“If (aerials) are done correctly I think they are relatively safe. It’s how you use them, where you use them, how you prepare to use them, do you have water around, have adult supervision," Halladay said.
But it remains very easy to start a wildfire, he said.
“It’s so dry, if you start a fire, it will burn. It will be so big so quickly you will just be stunned how fast it will go,” Halladay said. “If people will be careful and use their head and use reason and common sense, I think we can enjoy the holidays and have a good time and not set the state of Utah on fire.”
Among the restrictions and rules this year:
• Fireworks can be discharged between July 1 and July 7 as well as between July 21 and July 27. Fireworks can only be set off between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., with that time extended to midnight on the 4th and 24th of July.
• Salt Lake City Fire Department announced Wednesday areas that are fireworks-restricted, including the University of Utah campus, City Creek Canyon, all parks and wildland-urban interface areas, all areas west of I-215, and other downtown areas. For more information, see www.slcfire.com.
• As of Wednesday, open burning within Provo city limits is restricted unless done in designated areas. Target shooting is prohibited outside of the city's gun club, according to the Provo fire marshal. "Fires, including open flame and smoking materials, in the foothills, areas bordering the foothills and any Provo City watershed areas are prohibited except in designated fire pits in improved campgrounds and recreation areas," the marshal said in a prepared statement. For information, call 801-852-6321 or 801-852-6210.
• A National Wildland Fire Prevention and Education Team has been established to help combat the threat of fire this summer. "By bringing a National Wildland Fire Prevention and Education Team to Utah we will be able to unify these efforts across the state,” Loren Walker, U.S. Forest Service Communities Assistance and Prevention Coordinator, said. He noted that 90 percent of all wildland fires in Utah this year were caused by people. For information, see www.utahfireinfo.gov.