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Fireworks still a wildfire threat even after state ban

With 90 percent of Utah facing extreme drought, this year has already tallied 326 wildfires.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Bear Fire burns in the mountains northwest of Helper on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

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On June 8, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a prohibition on fireworks for all state and unincorporated lands as the region moves into what could be its worst fire season in history.

With 90 percent of Utah facing extreme drought, this year has already tallied 326 wildfires, according to a June 9 update from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, with 12,000 acres burned and 90 percent of the ignitions being human-caused. Of 2020′s 1,438 wildfire starts, 1,108 of those were human-caused — a record season.

The Utah Fire Marshal recommends individuals to check with their local fire authority on the status of fireworks restrictions in their area, with a non-comprehensive list of restricted areas available on their website. An interactive map is also available from the Unified Fire Authority showing restrictions in Salt Lake County specifically.

Although numbers from last year’s fire season on blazes caused by fireworks were not immediately available, Kait Webb, wildfire public information officer for the Utah Division of Fire, Forestry and State Lands, noted the impact of the near-12,000 acre Turkey Farm Road Fire in southwest Utah last July. The fire was ignited by juveniles using fireworks outside of the legal time, she said.

The Traverse Fire was another wildfire ignited by fireworks last year in late June, with the flames threatening Lehi and Draper neighborhoods after juveniles ignited a Roman candle that set fire to the hillside above Vialetto Way.

Webb recommends Utahns get acquainted with their emergency plans for wildfire season, thinking ahead on their evacuation plans, what they need to take with them and how they will stay notified of fire updates.

“We definitely have already had a number of homes that have been threatened by wildfire this year, and we’ve already had evacuations,” Webb said. “The tip that I would have is, don’t wait until you have a wildfire impact in your home or your community to prepare... We’re in wildfire season, we’re in the thick of it right now, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Being prepared for wildfire is the responsibility of everybody in Utah.”

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