With COVID-19 restrictions leading to the cancelation of Fourth of July celebrations across Utah, the Wasatch Back had to get creative.
Despite the modifications to public firework displays, officials in Summit and Wasatch County say this year was no busier than years past when it came to responding to fire calls.
Park City cancelled its traditional parade and fireworks display due to COVID-19 restrictions and many other towns modified their festivities as well. Local fire officials say many residents throughout the Wasatch Back decided to put on their own firework displays instead.
Despite the increased number of private firework displays over the holiday, fire officials in both Summit and Wasatch counties say they did not see a noticeable increase in fire calls.
Park City Fire District Fire Chief Paul Hewitt says firefighters responded to a few smoke scares over the weekend but the vast majority of calls were for medical reasons -- no different than a typical holiday weekend in Park City. He says calls they did receive about smoke were usually just people lighting up a barbeque in their backyard.
“I live, of course, here in the fire district and I’ve seen a lot of illegal fireworks being discharged (over the years) and have had to send engines out on those types of calls and we didn’t send one engine out on that type of a call this year that reported illegal fireworks being discharged,” Hewitt said. “So, again, thanks to the residents for paying attention and following the guidelines.”
Janet Carson of the Wasatch County Fire District added that although Midway did host their Memorial Hill fireworks display and Tuhaye put on a show of their own, restrictions were in place to limit people gathering in large groups. She did say there was a noticeable increase in the number of private firework shows in Wasatch County, though.
“We were down in the valley till nearly one o’clock (in the morning) with the engines on standby,” Carson said. “It was unbelievable the fireworks going off until after the time they were supposed to cut off. I think there was an increase this year.”
Carson adds Fourth of July is always one of the busiest days of the year for firefighters. Apart from a few calls from concerned residents in the Heber Valley, the department did not respond to more calls than a typical year, she says.
North Summit County Fire spokesman Tyler Rowser says things were not much different up north with zero fire calls over the weekend for an overall quiet holiday.
With Fourth of July now over and fire season in Utah in full swing, Park City Fire District Fire Marshall Mike Owens says people still need to be extra careful when it comes to wildfire danger this year.
“As the rain stopped coming and now we’ve had these high winds and the temperatures have really increased, now we’re getting to the point where we have to be very concerned about the fire danger,” Owens said. “Throughout most of the state, things are looking pretty good. In the southern portion of the state, they’re pretty dry and the fire risk is high there, but where we are, the fire risk is still right at what we would call ‘normal.’ That’s not to say there won’t be any fires, but the likelihood is neither higher or lower than average.”
State and federal fire officials reported 18 fireworks-related wildfires in Utah over the weekend. An outright ban on fireworks across Utah is now in place until the Pioneer Day holiday, starting July 22.
Sean Higgins, KPCW news.