Over the Independence Day holiday this year, fireworks were not a major worry. But in the three weeks since then, the Summit County area has dried out considerably.
As Rick Brough reports, the Summit County Council took the cautious approach, and asked the State Forester to authorize a fireworks ban before Park City followed suit.
Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said the ban took effect on July 20 and runs through Nov. 30.
He said the ban is in effect in unincorporated Summit County, private land, and county-owned land. And he added that fireworks are always illegal on federal land such as that within the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
The ban doesn’t apply to municipalities. But Park City announced its prohibition on Tuesday. Boyer said residents living in other local cities and towns should check their websites to see if any restrictions have been put in place.
Boyer said we’re in a fire season when a lot of the blazes are being created by humans.
“As we went into the Fourth of July, and now into the 24th of July, where we’ve had multiple weeks of dry weather with low humidity, high temps, the fireworks have become quite the cause, as well as the leaving campfires either unattended or not putting them out,” Boyer said.
He said that humidity has been in the low teens to single digits and temperatures have been in the mid-to-upper 90s.
The one saving grace is the county hasn’t seen the winds present in other areas.
Park City Fire Chief Paul Hewitt also warned that a little spark from a firework can set off a wildfire. And he said a major blaze can be as disruptive as a pandemic.
He said even when they’re allowed there’s a difference between the legal, consumer-grade fireworks and the mortars, coming across state lines, which are never legal.
“Luckily, we have not had a lot of residents that are real interested in firing off the mortars,” Hewitt said. “July Fourth, I usually get a whole bunch of phone calls during that evening. And this year, it was padded down. So anybody listening out there, don’t bring any illegal fireworks in here. That’s when the sheriff has to get involved.”
Hewitt and Boyer said that the investigations of human-caused fireworks can vary. Sometimes the instigators admit what they did.
Other times, a probe can take months.
Boyer said a couple of weeks ago, Coalville was plagued by a series of fires that local and state authorities investigated, suspecting arson.
“Over a 48-hour period, we had eight fires started within the city limits,” he said. “They didn’t really get anywhere. North Summit Fire and myself were in the area because after the first two, we realized we probably had an issue going on. So I was spending a lot of my time up in that area, and were able to catch em quickly. But it took until the eighth fire when we actually started to get some folks coming forward, witnesses; we were able to patch together a possible suspect.”
Boyer said the fires ended, but they didn’t get enough information for a prosecution.
Coming up in the next few days, there’s some precipitation in the forecast, but not enough to make a difference.
“We could be seeing the monsoonal flow start coming in, and that’s going to bring the winds,” Boyer said. “Initially, the first Wednesday and Thursday, it’s probably going to come in very dry, which means we could see dry lightning, which can tap out our resources quickly. Because it’ll be dry lightning plus the winds also come with those, to move those fronts in. It looks that by Thursday, Friday, we could start seeing some precipitation. But even with that, as dry as it’s been, as soon as the sun comes back out, it’s going to dry those fine fuels, the grasses, and so on, out.”