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Evanston fireworks stores help Utahns have a blast

Published June 29, 2013 4:41 pm

July 4th • Utahns make up majority of customers as they snap up pyrotechnics.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Evanston, Wyo. • The sign in front of Jolly Jacs Fireworks World could be the slogan for July 4th pyromaniacs everywhere:

"Where things go boom and dreams come true."

For thousands of Wasatch Front residents who want bootleg illegal fireworks or are searching for deals on the Utah-legal variety, a pre-holiday trip just across the border to Evanston is a tradition as nearly as old as Independence Day itself.

"We have a larger customer base in Utah," said Courtney Morgan, manager of Jolly Jacks, one of four large fireworks outlets in this Wyoming border town. "It's a solid 80 to 85 percent of our business. People go nuts."

Salespeople at the huge fireworks stores seem to know Utah laws by heart. Some buyers are simply looking for bargains on the legal stuff. Others definitely want to test the law by purchasing illegal aerials, bottle rockets or firecrackers.

Morgan said a good number of Wasatch Front residents will camp in motor homes or stay in Evanston motels on July 4th. They can light Wyoming fireworks in city parks or ball fields as well as enjoy the massive city-sponsored celebration.

Last Wednesday morning, the majority of the cars in Evanston firework stores bore Utah license plates, though Fred Cansler of Chino Valley, Ariz., was searching the aisles of Porters Fireworks and Liquor. That border store sells fireworks and liquor, both likely cheaper than most Beehive State outlets. He said a friend asked him to stop and pick up some packages for July 4th.

At Phantom Fireworks, a Millcreek resident who only identified himself as Zak was shopping, mainly for kid-friendly packages. He said that letting off fireworks and enjoying a barbecue are great ways to celebrate America.

Utah law enforcement officials remind those who might want to bootleg illegal booze and bombs across the border that there can be consequences if they are caught.

"There is no focused effort such as we had a few years ago," said Utah Highway Patrol corporal Todd Johnson, referring to a controversial sting operation where undercover police officers targeted car license plates in Evanston's firework stores. "Troopers in the course of their duties and patrols will take appropriate action if they see illegal fireworks."

Adam Miller from the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office said that a person who causes a fire with fireworks will be liable for the costs of fighting it. Using illegal fireworks is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

Detective Veronica Montoya of the Salt Lake City Police Department said officers often respond to many complaints from neighbors living next to those using illegal fireworks and can issue citations for violations. That includes confiscation of fireworks, which are stored in bunkers near the airport.

There may be pent up demand from a year ago when heavy fire restrictions caused many Utahns to not purchase or light as many fireworks.

"We're very busy," said Destinee Sather of Porter's Place. "It's better than last year. Last year, we were so empty on the 4th that it was depressing, mainly because of the Utah ban on fireworks. We are hoping it will rain. That is better for business."

She said the most expensive package of pyrotechnics was the $500 Big Bang package, which also includes many free additions. Sather said some families each chip in $100 so they can have a big backyard show.

Walking through the aisles of the four main Evanston fireworks stores shows just how fun marketing can be. At Porter's Place, there was one firework that resembled a laptop computer and another that looked like a miniature stadium.

Packages with names such as "Wizard of Ahhs," "Moonshine," "Baby Pyro," "Burst and Blossom," "Aerial Avalanche," "God of Fireworks," "Mucho Fiesta," "The Godfather," "Black Mamba" and "Smoke 'n Mirrors" entice customers who enjoy seeing their hard-earned money go up in smoke.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter @tribtomwharton Utah fireworks laws

Class C fireworks can be sold from June 23 to July 27, from December 29 to December 31, and two days before and on Chinese New Year's Eve. They may discharged between the hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. from July 1 to July 7, with July 4th hours extended to midnight; from July 21 through July 27 with July 24th hours extended to midnight; Dec. 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Jan. 1, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following day on Chinese New Year's Eve.

Illegal fireworks in Utah include sky rockets, missile type rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, cannon crackers, ground salutes, firecrackers, M-80, Cherry Bombs and similar explosives, a single shot or reloadable aerial shell, and any "cakes" with more than 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition. Fireworks safety tips

Purchase fireworks from licensed dealers and read all instructions carefully.

Children should not handle fireworks. They must be at least 16 years of age to handle or light fireworks.

Avoid using alcohol or drugs when lighting fireworks.

Leave sufficient space from trees, carports, structures, power lines or other high or low obstacles for aerial or legal cake fireworks, which need at least 10 feet of clearance in the air.

Do not alter, change or experiment with fireworks.

Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

Never light fireworks in windy conditions or under a carport.

Keep a bucket of water or running hose nearby when lighting fireworks.

Wear safety glasses.

Keep unused fireworks 30 feet away from the shooting area.

Light fireworks one at a time.

Use caution with animals.

Source: Utah State Fire Marshal