Current weather conditions in Utah are not a surprise. It’s hot and extremely dry, as it always is this time of year.
What, then, should people expect when state law allows much of the population to begin playing with fire for a few days?
Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers shortened the number of days people may ignite fireworks for their own patriotic pleasures. They may be discharged only on July 2-5 and again on July 22-25. This is six days less than what was allowed previously. But, given the dangers, the obvious question should be, why allow personal fireworks at all?
The National Weather Service already has put the entire state under a red flag warning, signaling extreme fire danger. Gov. Gary Herbert said on his monthly KUED media event, “We want to call on the people of Utah to be careful, to be wise in what they do in their activities."
Again, why are we letting people light fireworks?
Last year offers a prime example of the dangers. In Utah County, firefighters were kept busy fighting house fires near SCERA Park in Orem and elsewhere. A BYU history professor’s home ignited because of a stray firework, destroying an important Western art collection and many books.
Fires broke out as well in Salt Lake County, including one near I-80 and 1300 East in Salt Lake City, near the Sugarhouse Park fireworks show.
In Tooele, fireworks set off by a young boy ignited a brush fire that came near several homes.
Fire officials say children and teenagers seem to cause the most mischief, which makes sense. The joy of watching fireworks explode has a child-like quality to it. Adults tend to be more responsible except, apparently, when it comes to watching their children.
We understand both the appeal and the tradition of fireworks. At the nation’s founding, John Adams wrote to his wife with the hope that, forever more, Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
But the truth is Adams never traveled the continent from one end to the other. He never experienced the hot, arid conditions of the Great Basin. Common sense ought to dictate restraint when it comes to the personal use of incendiary devices, just as Utah law does during most of the rest of the year.
We suspect Adams would be satisfied with the pomp, parade, shows, games, sports, etc., that attend Independence Day here. We also suspect he would count professionally run and carefully monitored fireworks shows as satisfying his desire for “illuminations.”59 comments on this story
Many cities in Utah already have imposed restrictions on fireworks in certain areas where fires are more likely to ignite. Parowan has banned them completely within city limits.
That seems the sanest approach.
As they do each year, fire officials are urging caution. “We are expecting things to burn,” United Fire Authority spokesman Eric Holmes told KSL.
It is frankly irresponsible to set up such expectations each year and act as if the possible loss of a few homes is acceptable. State lawmakers should let this be the last year when private fireworks are allowed in Utah.