John Adams, America’s second president, first suggested Independence Day be celebrated with “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other” — but the folks who put out fires and treat burn victims in Salt Lake City would rather the average Utahn leave fireworks alone.
“Our professional sentiment is to let the professionals light the fireworks,” said Brad Wiggins, nurse manager at the University of Utah Health Burn Center.
Wiggins was on hand Wednesday when two captains of the Salt Lake City Fire Department demonstrated the amount of heat generated by a sparkler — often the one firework parents let small children hold.
Class C fireworks are legal to use in Utah during two four-day windows in July: July 2 to 5, for the Independence Day holiday, and July 22 to 25, for Pioneer Day on the 24th.
“Holding a sparkler is putting your child at risk,” Wiggins said, as he listed the possible burn injuries that can scar a child’s skin — particularly if an errant spark or hot metal ignites a child’s clothing. “These are life-threatening injuries,” Wiggins added.
“Sometimes we underestimate how hot these sparklers can get,” Capt. Adam Archuleta, the Fire Department’s public information officer, said before the demonstration at Fire Station 10 by the U. campus.
As Capt. Ginger Bearclaw, wearing heavy gloves, held a sparkler, Archuleta lit the tip of the thin metal rod. Then he held a thermal imaging camera up to the sparkler, as it registered a flame that reached temperatures above 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even after the flame went out and the sparks stopped flying, the metal rod still registered around 300 degrees. After dousing the rod in a bucket of water for five seconds, the rod returned to ambient temperature.
“The lowest spot on that sparkler was hotter than boiling water,” said Annette Newman, the U. burn unit’s outreach and disaster coordinator. She added that the sparkler, at its highest temperature, “is as hot as a blowtorch.”
Newman held up a variety of safe alternatives, including glow sticks, pinwheels, bubble wands and Silly String. “Silly String is way better than getting burned,” she said.
Children aren’t the only ones who face problems with the annual profusion of amateur fireworks. Some combat veterans, dealing with post-traumatic stress, find the loud noise and flashes of light from fireworks can trigger anxiety attacks.
The Illinois-based nonprofit Military With PTSD distributes yard signs that read “Combat veteran lives here — Please be courteous with fireworks.”
Josh Hansen, an Iraq War combat veteran and co-founder of the Utah-based nonprofit Continue Mission, knows some veterans “who say it freaks them out. They hide in the hills and wait it out.”
Hansen isn’t one of them, though. On two tours in Iraq, between 2004 and 2007, Hansen said, he was “an IED hunter,” and part of his job was “to blow things up.” (His military service ended in March 2007, when he was injured in the back and neck by an IED in Fallujah.)
Hansen said he and his family will be lighting fireworks on the Fourth. “For me, I have no issues with it, because I love blowing things up."
Fireworks in the neighborhood also can scare pets, said Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications for Humane Society of Utah.
“It’s not just the sound," Shepherd said, “but the lights and the smell, the sulfur.”
Shepherd said up to 30 percent of pets go missing during the Fourth of July holiday. Often they are animals that usually live in the backyard but get spooked by the fireworks nearby and try to escape, she said.
Pet owners should bring their outdoor animals inside if they’re likely to get scared by fireworks, Shepherd said. They should be put in a safe room, where they’re less likely to do damage to themselves or the house. Shepherd also suggests putting on soothing music, or the television, to drown out the noise from fireworks outside.
If a pet goes missing, Shepherd said, owners should check with their municipal shelter, which by law must hold any animals for five days before putting them up for adoption. Those who find missing animals should take them to the municipal shelter as soon as possible, so owners have a better chance of finding them. (The Humane Society of Utah does not take lost animals, Shepherd said.)
Here’s where the professional fireworks displays can be seen on the Fourth of July along the Wasatch Front:
Clearfield • Festival at Fisher Park, 934 S. 1000 East, starts at 6 p.m., with live music and food vendors. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free.
Kaysville • ”Red White and Boom,” at Barnes Park, 950 W. 200 North, starts at 5 p.m., with live music, food trucks and bounce houses. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free.
Layton • Liberty Days, at Layton Commons Park, 437 N. Wasatch Drive, starting at noon, with entertainment, Dutch oven cooking demonstrations, vendor booths and concessions. New American Philharmonic Symphony with Cannoneers perform at 8 p.m. at Ed Kenley Amphitheater, 403 N. Wasatch Drive. Fireworks at 10 p.m. Free.
Salt Lake County
Holladay • Concert on the Pavilion, Holladay City Park, 4570 S. 2300 East, starting at 8:30 p.m., featuring We Are Strike. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free.
Magna • Music in the Park, Magna Copper Park, 8900 W. 2600 South, 7:30 p.m., with One Way Johnny. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free.
Murray • Concert at Murray Park softball field, 296 E. Murray Park Ave., starting at 8:30 p.m., with The Salamanders. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free.
Riverton • Riverton Town Days, Riverton City Park, 12800 S. 1450 West, starting at 9 a.m., with entertainment, carnival, a cornhole tournament, a pie-eating contest, and a haystack dive. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free ($5 fee per team for cornhole tournament; wristbands must be purchased for carnival).
Salt Lake City • 4th of July Celebration at The Gateway, 50 S. Rio Grande St., activities start at 4 p.m., with live music, karaoke, food trucks, buskers and a live art installation. Fireworks begin at 10 p.m. at the Olympic Legacy Plaza. Free.
Salt Lake City • Jordan Park, 1000 S. 900 West, starting at 10 p.m. Free.
Salt Lake City • Smith’s Ballpark, 77 W. 1300 South, baseball game starts at 6:35 p.m., between the Salt Lake Bees vs. El Paso Chihuahuas. Fireworks after the game (around 10 p.m.). Game tickets, from $11 and up, at slbees.com.
Sandy • “Let Freedom Ring” celebration, South Towne Promenade, 10000 S. 175 West, evening events starting at 6 p.m. with Sandy 4th Parade, followed by concert at 8 p.m. by Metro Music Club. Fireworks start at 10 p.m., with more music at 10:30 p.m. Free.
West Jordan • Western Stampede rodeo, Veterans Memorial Park, 1985 W. 7800 South, starts at 8 p.m. (pre-rodeo at 7 p.m.). Fireworks start when the rodeo ends (around 10 p.m.). Tickets are $8 to $18 in advance, $11 to $21 at the gate.
Lehi • Fourth of July celebration at Thanksgiving Point, Electric Park, 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, with gates opening at 4 p.m., activities starting at 6:30 p.m., with music, games and prizes. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Free.
Pleasant Grove • At Discovery Park, 1435 N. 100 East. Fireworks start at dark.
Provo • Stadium of Fire, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Brigham Young University campus, starts at p.m. Headliner is country star Keith Urban. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. Tickets to the show range from $35 to $250.