Kamas City Council Approves Resolution to Prohibit Fireworks
The Kamas City Council on Tuesday voted 3 to 2 to approve a resolution prohibiting fireworks. Two dissenting councilors said they were unsure if the ban, covering the entire city, would hold up against a legal challenge.
The resolution enacted a ban on fireworks and other ignition sources, due to the current extreme drought, weather and other factors creating fire hazards. The resolution was supported by councilors Kevan Todd, John Blazzard and Garry Walker. Voting against were Allen McNeil and Monica Blazzard.
The prohibition will be in effect until it’s repealed.
One question the councilors considered was whether state code allowed them to prohibit fireworks for the entire town, or whether to ban the devices within certain areas designated as hazardous.
The Council looked at a written report from its attorney, Rob Patterson. He wrote that it’s been an open question how much cities can limit fireworks, though other Utah municipalities such as Park City, Salt Lake City and Price have enacted city-wide bans.
Mayor Matt McCormick read from the attorney’s report.
“My interpretation of the code is that the code was intended to allow city councils to prohibit fireworks only within certain limited and designated areas with a buffer zone to make the area easy to enforce, and the code was not really intended to offer a city-wide ban on fireworks,” he said. “That said, Kamas is not like most of the Wasatch Front municipalities, since it is both smaller and more interspersed with brush, dry grass, open water, ditches, canals and agricultural properties.”
Patterson’s report said the city hasn’t been able to designate safe areas and that a complete ban would be acceptable to the South Summit Fire District.
“There is a risk that the order could be challenged and deemed invalid,” Patterson said. “But the risk is low and the city is not likely taking on much, if any liability. The council must weigh the risk of fires and the risk of legal challenge and make a determination. My recommendation, stated below, is that the city council can impose a fireworks order, like it did in 2020, if the fire department approves.”
On the other hand, councilor Allen McNeil argued for a partial ban, saying the town could use a map it has on file to mark safe areas. He said Kamas could present a legal argument for a complete ban, but he wondered if it would hold up in court.
“So the question is, is it fair for us to enact an ordinance that would not hold up, because we think it’s going to have a better effect on people not lighting fireworks,” McNeil said. “Because, again, who’s going to challenge it. Probably nobody. Will it scare people to say, ‘we got a city-wide ban, you can’t do it anywhere.’ Hopefully. So is it better for us to enact an ordinance that cannot be upheld, or enact an ordinance that can be upheld, probably doesn’t have the same bite.”
McNeil said he would never support a measure that couldn’t hold up legally.
But other councilors favored the city-wide ban. Councilor Kevan Todd said the impacts of the drought are obvious.
“State-wide, we are so dry,” he said. “I don’t see a problem just encompassing the whole city. I agree we can put a time-stamp on it, right? I’m no lawyer, I’m just a contractor. But I guarantee we have proof that the whole city is dry, not just portions.”
And McCormick said he supports the opinion from the city’s attorney.
“The guy that we have hired to interpret things for us, to defend us in the case of any issues, has clearly recommended that we adopt this,” he said. “And he believes there’s an argument to enforce it.”