Bans on fireworks, fires growing as dry conditions in Utah persist
High fire danger in some areas of Utah has prompted federal officials to close a few campgrounds and to place restrictions on fires, smoking and the use of materials that could start wildfires.
Meanwhile, the state fire marshal is reminding local legislative bodies, such as city and county councils, that it is now their responsibility to adopt ordinances to regulate the use of fireworks and other potential fire sources.
HB289, passed during this year's legislative session, reversed a longtime practice that allowed a local jurisdiction's top fire official to simply issue a ban, said state Fire Marshal Coy Porter. The law was intended to address complaints that there was no public input on restrictions on fireworks, campfires and shooting.
"We felt like this was a good way, so the fire official [now] submits [a request] to the city council rather than the fire official saying this is done," Porter said.But only three of 110 cities South Jordan, Provo and Eureka have submitted updated restrictions to his office, Porter said. And 10 to 15 other jurisdictions have ordinances in place that will comply with the new law, Porter said.
Come July 1, when the new law takes effect, restrictions that were in place last year will be void in jurisdictions that have not voted to keep them.
"We're trying to encourage them to get it on their agendas and get it done as quickly as they can," Porter said.
UFA Capt. Clint Mecham said the restrictions are essentially the same as last year.
"We're preparing for the worst but hoping for the best," he said.
Federal officials have already moved to restrict some activities in areas of high fire danger, especially southwestern Utah. Beginning Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management has prohibited the following on all unincorporated lands in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties:
• Open fires of any kind, except campfires and charcoal fires within approved fire pits and grills.
• Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle or building.
• Cutting, welding or grinding metal in areas with dry vegetation.
• Use of exploding targets detonated when struck by a projectile such as a bullet.
• Fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices.
On federal lands including Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, officials have banned the following:
• Open fires of any kind outside an approved park fire structure.
• Smoking outside a vehicle or building unless stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is clear of all flammable material.
Officials have closed or placed restrictions on campgrounds as well.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday that it is closing the Oak Grove Campground and Browse Road in Dixie National Forest due to extreme fire danger. The closure will remain in effect until the fire danger subsides.
"The Oak Grove Campground is at the top of the drainage with only one road in and out. Even with the statewide fire restrictions in effect, firefighters have extinguished several abandoned campfires in the area below the Oak Grove Campground. The closure is a proactive approach to safeguard the public during extremely dry conditions," said Bevan Killpack, Pine Valley District ranger, in a statement.
In Zion, the Watchman Campground and South Campground are closed to campfires due to an abundance of highly flammable cheatgrass.
Park officials in the Uinta Basin were asking individuals to use extreme caution when using campfires or other types of outdoor burning.
In addition, federal officials were reminding Utahns that fireworks are always prohibited on all federal lands.
According to Porter, there were more than 1,500 fires in Utah last year. About 700 of those were human-caused.