A particularly smoky summer has sparked conversations among Utahns about whether the joys of fireworks outweigh their potential risks.
The Fourth of July proved to be one of the busiest for Utah firefighters in recent memory, prompting the Cottonwood Heights City Council to ban aerial fireworks and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment to call for a closer look at how fireworks contribute to air pollution. Springville and Salt Lake City have also tightened their firework policies.
Last week, we asked Deseret News readers to weigh in on this debate by sharing their experiences with fireworks and views on firework safety. Here’s a look at the 102 responses we received. Responses have been edited for clarity.
Many readers recounted witnessing potentially dangerous firework displays:
- "A bottle rocket nearly missed my roof, which is made of flammable shingles, this year. And my neighbor's yard caught fire and was in flames before buckets of water put it out. The person who did the fireworks was drunk."
- "On the Fourth of July, at least two aerial fireworks tipped over and shot toward our group and other people. One person was slightly burned. My children were terrified."
- "I was hit in the face with a firework that went sideways and a three-foot swath of grass was lit on fire and had to be extinguished. A neighbor was hit in the chest with one of the ‘plugs’ from an aerial firework."
- "In 2011 in Moab, a field caught fire near my house and threatened a couple hundred houses. It was started by someone using personal fireworks."
- "Isn't playing with fire always potentially dangerous? Mix sparks with little children, people trying to drive down the street or aerial fireworks that get on the wrong projectile path. Even professionally done shows where hot ash is raining on the front row seats can potentially be dangerous."
In light of these potential dangers, many readers argued stricter firework rules should be enforced or that fireworks should be banned altogether:
- "I would like people to take a fireworks safety course before they can launch fireworks."
- "They should be used by professionals only and in a controlled environment. No private home fireworks."
- "Ban them in Utah. They scare the dogs, worsen air quality, present fire hazards and are generally dangerous. Enforcement in no-firework areas is not good."
- "Only set them off on the holidays themselves. Or at most, the day before until the day after. None of this setting fireworks off every night for a week so neighbors with little kids or those with PTSD from war have trouble sleeping for awhile."
- "I think fireworks should be allowed only in public areas, such as parks, parking lots or such places. I'm tempted to say people should be required to obtain a license before operating fireworks (which would include a promise to stay sober while using fireworks) just like they have to obtain a driver's license or gun permit."
Yet other readers found current firework regulations adequate and noted that users should simply use their own common sense:
- "Don't light them in areas that are really dry and could start a fire."
- "Have a hose nearby."
- "The current rules are fine."
- "I think the rules are fair right now. People need to be smart about when, where and how fireworks should be used."
Despite their risks, most respondents reported liking fireworks and recalled enjoying memorable firework displays from Utah's Stadium of Fire to presidential inaugurations to Disneyland spectaculars:27 comments on this story
- "They reminded me of fond memories of growing up watching Disneyland fireworks, and later, of working at Disney (where I met my hubby). As we were raising children, we enjoyed their excitement over the fireworks."
- "This Fourth of July in Utah County, the whole county was lit up with hundreds of individual displays."
- "Riverton Town Days fireworks on the Fourth of July are the best!"
- "I remember my son's excitement for a firework called 'Off Da' Hook.' It lives as one of his most treasured memories."