SALT LAKE CITY — It's been a snowy winter, a wet spring and even the summer got off to an unusually cold start, however officials warn that with the rising temperatures and the July holidays, the wildfire threat is significant.
And officials from Moab to Morgan County, Dixie to Davis County and all other parts of the state are putting out the word as Tuesday opens the first legal day to set off fireworks.
"When we get moisture like this, all of the grass and the grass seeds that might have been somewhat dormant just proliferate," State Fire Marshal Coy Porter said.
The state's fire marshal said dried grass can become particularly hazardous, and he noted that when it lights on fire "even in a no wind situation, where there's no breeze at all, (fire) will travel as fast as a person can walk. … It goes in all directions."
"Our mountains right now look very green and wonderful, but later in July and into August, those will become tinder dry," he said.
Sheri Stevens, program manager for the Utah's national fire incident reporting system, said 21 fires in the state the past year listed fireworks as the cause. Stevens said not all fire departments report the cause of fires.
During the 2018 legislative session, Utah lawmakers passed a bill increasing firework restrictions. Utahns wishing to spark up legal fireworks can do so only on July 2-5, July 22-25 and on New Year's Eve or the Chinese New Year's Eve.
The bill increased fines for the discharge of fireworks in restricted areas from $500 to $1,000.
While the state restricts fireworks on all public land, and all fireworks are banned in federal parks and forests and on BLM lands, local governments have the ability to impose restrictions of their own. Porter said those restrictions are mainly "placed in areas where the wildline meets the urban, we call that the wildland-urban interface."
The state fire marshal's website offers a listing of municipalities and their restrictions. Due to changing fire conditions, Porter said, restrictions can be updated periodically and people should check their city's listing before setting off pyrotechnics.
Ogden's fire marshal, Kevin Brown, said he is keeping tabs on conditions.
"We work with the Forest Service, they're the experts on monitoring the fuel moisture" he said, noting that "we're starting to see some hot weather, and it's starting to dry out, we think it's going to dry out quickly."
The state forestry office has its eyes on the hills.
"Right now, it's still a little green out there for us to consider (further) restrictions. But we still want people to be really careful, because we've already had several fires" said Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry.
Fire officials advised residents to check on their city's fire department website for the most up-to-date information on restrictions in their areas.
Over the weekend, Salt Lake City Fire Chief Karl Lieb and fire crews were distributing flyers among foothill residents in order to remind them of the critical role they play in prevention of fires. Among other areas, Salt Lake bans all fireworks east of 900 East, including the University of Utah campus; all areas north of South Temple; in City Creek Canyon; and west of Redwood Road.
Other Utah cities also have reached out to residents.
The Moab City Council voted last week to allow residents to use fireworks at the Center Street ballfields across from City Hall during the legal fireworks dates
Otherwise, the city has banned the use of all fireworks on parkways, public trails, pedestrian paths, parks and other city properties, as well as over or within 200 feet of Pack Creek or Mill Creek and within 20 feet of any residence, building, structure or combustible material.
In Springville, the city created an interactive map so residents can see if they live "in the "Fun Zone" or "No Fun Zone."
In Salina in Sevier County, officials even reminded people to wait until after the town's fireworks display to light their own, because "it will be extremely difficult for our engines to respond until the show is complete."
Several counties in southern Utah are also now under open fire restrictions as the dry weather persists. Campers are advised to check for fire danger postings and to heed restrictions.
The state fire marshal also offers several safety tips. People are advised to have a bucket of water or hose on hand when lighting up fireworks and warned to never relight a "dud."Comment on this story
Sparklers get special attention.
"(They are) the No. 1 item that we see in this season that causes visits to doctors and ERs, but are not technically listed as fireworks," Porter said.
Burns occur mainly when parents give them to young kids not realizing the dangers this might pose.
"They don't really understand that the sparkler can be burning at temperatures pushing over 1,700 degrees" he said. The fire marshal's website warns that sparklers should only be used by children of 12 years or older.