ST. GEORGE – Firefighters responded to multiple firework-related fire incidents this week. While some instances were minor, others were substantial and poised potential threats to residences.
With another round of fireworks coming up the week surrounding Pioneer Day, firefighters are asking the public to be safe and to check their area’s fireworks restrictions.
In St. George, firefighters had been seeing a decrease in firework-related fires and incidents when it came to the Fourth of July, but that changed this year, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said Wednesday.
The St. George Fire Department responded to between 17 and 20 firework-related calls Tuesday.
“This has been the busiest Fourth of July we’ve had in several years,” he said, adding that he believes it is due to the current overabundance of dry fuel across the region this year.
Fortunately, many of the incidents were minor and homeowners had the fires out by the time firefighters arrived, he said.
Some fireworks malfunctioned and shot off to places they weren’t meant to, while the discarded remnants of used fireworks thrown in garbage cans ignited trash fires. Many of the fires tended to take place in open areas and on landscaping as well.
“We had one down in Bloomington that was probably the most substantial,” Stoker said.
The fire occurred in the area of Escalante Drive and Canyon Cove Circle. A family was lighting off fireworks and one tipped over and ended up flying over their home and into the neighborhood. The firework landed in an area that was covered in a build up of brush and tamarisk and caught fire.
Firefighters were involved with that fire around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and were able to put it out soon after. While the fire did some damage to a tennis court fence in the area, it was extinguished before any further property damage occurred, Stoker said.
The Bloomington incident, like others, involved legal fireworks. Some incidents firefighters came across did not. And others involved both varieties in areas where fireworks are currently restricted due to fire risk.
In preparation of the pending pyrotechnic spree Tuesday night, staffed fire engines were placed around the city and ready to respond at a moment’s notice, Stoker said. This allowed them to respond quickly to the incidents taking place across town.
While the St. George Fire Department was dealing with various calls, the Ivins City Fire Department was called out to a fire potentially triggered by fireworks that torched a part of a bamboo wall that surrounded a private lot.
And they weren’t alone. Fire crews dealt with firework-related incidents across the county, Hurricane Valley Fire Chief Tom Kuhlmann said Friday.
During the three days following the Fourth of July in which fireworks remain legal to use in Utah, additional firework-related calls came in, though not near the same volume as they did Tuesday.
The Hurricane Valley Fire District responded to a brush fire triggered by fireworks Friday night that came within 5 feet of catching a home on fire before being put out.
Restrictions of fireworks have been set in place across the state and the region due to extreme fire risk. Combined with complaints over the noise, air-quality issues and their affect on pets and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, one state lawmaker wants to ban fireworks completely.
House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, told Fox 13 News Thursday he is considering drafting legislation that would either ban or greatly restrict fireworks.
“I think we ought to just talk about banning them outright. We should have that discussion and that dialogue,” Briscoe said.
Some aspects of Briscoe’s potential bill could include limiting the days fireworks can be set off and eliminating the legal use of aerial fireworks.
Current Utah law allows fireworks to be set off three days before and after Independence Day and Pioneer Day. That is too much, Briscoe said.
Pioneer Day – July 24 – tends to lack the pyrotechnic mayhem that accompanies the night of the Fourth of July, Stoker said. Still, both he and Kuhlmann ask the public to be safe and mindful of firework safety and restrictions.
“Please be safe with your fireworks,” Kuhlmann said. “I don’t think things are going to get better as conditions go.”
Fireworks restrictions remain in place for the coming Pioneer Day. Restrictions for St. George can be found on the city website.
A general guide to fireworks restrictions in southwest Utah, as well as safety and disposal tips, can be found here.
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