Fireworks have taken center stage, lately, in terms of news coverage across the state. That’s thanks to action by the Utah State Legislature which extended the fireworks season with fireworks previously illegal.
The summer fireworks season – when fireworks can legally be used – actually now begins Sunday, June 26, for one month, through July 26.
This change also opens the way to allowing multiple tube, repeater or cake fireworks. The state fire marshal compares them to professional displays in miniature.
Still not allowed are firecrackers, M-80s, cherry bombs, bottle rockets, Roman candles, single or reloading mortars and ground salutes.
But the fact that some of the new fireworks can ascend up to 150 feet has fire and law enforcement officials, and others concerned.
“For us, the problem is the unknown,” said South Davis Metro Fire Agency Chief Jim Rampton in a story by Melinda Williams which appeared in last week’s Davis Clipper.
Those unknowns include the longer fireworks summer season, as well as that many revelers won’t know how the new fireworks function, what their impact can be.
With them shooting as high as 150 feet in the air, those shooting them off must have ample clearance around trees, carports, homes and garages, fire officials are emphasizing.
All of these unknowns are potential recipes for disaster, not only for the operators, but also for onlookers or others who just happen to be nearby.
What happens, Chief Rampton worries, if someone lights several of the new fireworks and only half go off. Naturally, those not immediately igniting will be checked out. The “late bloomer” fireworks may go off late, causing the operator and others injury.
Even those seemingly harmless sparklers should make a person at least be wary to potential dangers. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty darn hot. But the tip of a sparkler burns at five times that temperature – at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit!
Kids under the age of 12 should be closely supervised, if they’re allowed to use sparklers, the state fire marshal warns. In any case, they should be held at arm’s length, with at least six feet between those using a sparkler. And tempting as it may be, children shouldn’t run or wave a sparkler while holding it, the fire official warms.
Summer fire restrictions are in place in Bountiful – east of Bountiful Boulevard and north of 400 North east of 900 East. In North Salt Lake, no fireworks will be allowed east of Eagle Ridge Drive. In Centerville, no fireworks will be permitted basically east of 700 East.
In Farmington, the council voted against imposing fireworks restrictions, which basically would’ve banned their use east of Main Street.
“When you’ve got that much of your population now put into a position where they can’t set off fireworks, that puts a lot of burden on law enforcement,” and that job would be far from easy, Mayor Scott Harbertson told the Clipper.
“We will have them (law enforcement) enforce any flagrant violations, anyone being ridiculously irresponsible, doing things they shouldn’t,” he emphasized.
“I hope our residents are cautious and safe and that we don’t have any fires on the hillside (as happened in a very serious way in 2003), or we’ll revisit this (restrictions) next year,” the mayor added.
With privilege comes responsibility. Please remember that in the coming days and weeks. We don’t want to see friends and loved ones maimed or worse from improper fireworks use.
Please use caution, keep a water source close by, make sure the area where you’re choosing to shoot off your fireworks is cleared of weeds and grass, and away from buildings and people.
In 2009 nearly 6,000 holiday-makers spent part of their July 4 with doctors and nurses in an emergency room, due to injuries from fireworks. And, children ages 15 and younger made up close to 40 percent of those injuries, the organization Prevent Blindness America says.
It offers a free Safe Summer Celebrations brochure with informative tips on making the upcoming holidays safe, including with fireworks. To obtain a copy, call 1-800- 331-2020 or visit preventblindness.org.
Let’s make it a happy – and safe – Independence Day/Pioneer Day celebratory period!