Fireworks stands divided on if bans will slow sales

Following a citywide ban on personal fireworks from the Salt Lake City mayor, owners of fireworks stands hope a focus on safety can thwart any issues.

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Barbara Wolf, co-owner of Wild Wolf Fireworks, unpacks fireworks Friday, June 25, 2021, at her fireworks stand located at 2300 W. Main St. in Lehi.

Although there weren’t as many customers as last year at one Millcreek fireworks stand on as sales started Thursday, some sellers are not too concerned about the possible impact on sales from Salt Lake City’s ban on personal fireworks.

The ban was implemented on Tuesday by order of the Salt Lake City fire marshal due to dangerous wildfire conditions. Holladay, Millcreek and Ogden are among the most recent localities to implement firework restrictions, although some municipalities say they can’t legally enact an all-out ban.

In addition to the ban, there’s pressure not to use fireworks anywhere this year. Many officials are encouraging people in towns without bans to skip using fireworks. “It’s just not worth the risk,” said Salt Lake City Fire Captain Anthony Burton.

Amid the controversy, three fireworks sellers near Salt Lake said they hope to change attitudes toward fireworks by encouraging safe use to prevent wildfire risks.

“I’m not too worried — I know the laws are on our side, and that it will still be a good year,” said Heidi Amott with Blast Pyro Fireworks which has locations in Midvale, Ogden, West Valley City and Payson. “When the media and things like that are talking about banning and how horrible fireworks are ... All that does is make those that buy the fireworks go, ‘Okay, well, I don’t want to do it here on the off chance I get in trouble, so I’m gonna go do it in the farmer’s field down the corner,’ ... And then that’s when we have the fires and the problems.”

But Andrew Hacking, manager of a Phantom Fireworks stand in Millcreek, feels the ban is “definitely going to have a big impact on sales,” and says that they had a lot more customers last year on the first day of sales.

Both Hacking and Amott are teaching safety to their customers, and Amott believes more information on how to set off fireworks safely leads to less issues.

“We got a lot of fliers ... that basically talk about how to properly put out your fireworks, how to properly use them, what not to use around them,” Hacking said. “We got a lot of guidelines set up right there that people can read, and we’ve got a lot of restrictions that we have to follow to be able to sell them to people.”

Barbara Wolf and her husband started Wild Wolf Fireworks six years ago, and they have four locations this year in Lehi, Taylorsville, West Jordan and Saratoga Springs. So far, they don’t expect much of an impact on their sales, with many customers already contacting Wild Wolf through social media for orders.

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) A no smoking sign hangs above fireworks Friday, June 25, 2021, at Wild Wolf Fireworks, located at 2300 W. Main St. in Lehi.

The couple planned for two more locations in Eagle Mountain, but closed the stands due to the ban there.

“We’re totally supportive of the cities and their decisions,” Wolf said. “And we just ask people to be respectful of their neighbors and the city officials and the decisions that they’ve made.”

Wolf said the city of Eagle Mountain told them they could still sell their fireworks there but they made the decision not to, just in case.

“My husband and I both felt if somebody were to have purchased something out of one of our stands and took it into into the city limits, and set off a firework next to an open field or God forbid, a house or an apartment complex or something and caught it on fire, we would not be able to sleep at night,” Wolf said.

“We’re really making sure to emphasize that with all of our operators, that they teach every customer that they come in contact with about safety, and bracing, and having water nearby and just being smart about where they’re shooting off. And if they’re restricted in their area, to go somewhere else and shoot them off because those restrictions are in place for a reason,” she added.

Those who purchase fireworks can call their local municipalities to find a safe place to set them off if their residential area has a ban in place, Amott said. When fire marshals inspect fireworks stands, they give sellers a map of safe areas to set off the fireworks, Wolf said. She makes sure her shop also gives out a safety flier with every purchase so customers can light their fireworks safely.

“The biggest thing would be is [to] know the laws, talk to your constituents, talk to the people, teach them how to be safe with fireworks, as opposed to getting them all riled up and scared about fireworks,” Amott said. “Teach them how to be safe, where to go to be safe, so that way everybody can enjoy it and you don’t have those that … go and try to hide it and do it in an illegal area, or do illegal fireworks that are not in the safety guidelines, and then cause problems.”

Wolf said they’ve never dealt with the city having a complete ban like this year, but that there are usually some cities with specific areas restricted every year she’s sold.

“We’ve always just made sure that customers know that they have access to that information [where they can set fireworks off safely],” Wolf said. “This year we’ve got big maps all over our locations so they can look and see. We’ve got the unified interactive fire map on our website, as well as on our Facebook page that we are constantly directing people to if they have any questions.”

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Jay Wolf, co-owner of Wild Wolf Fireworks, points out areas on a map that shows where customers can and can’t set off fireworks Friday, June 25, 2021, at his fireworks stand located at 2300 W. Main St. in Lehi. Wolf gives a map to customers with every purchase, and will update the map if regulations change.

Amott says she sees legal action “coming down the pipeline” if officials ban fireworks illegally, since there has to be a sufficient need for fireworks to be banned in the area.

“It’s just [important in] getting the word out there to teach safety as opposed to... restrictions,” Amott said. “Help educate as opposed to immediately jumping to the ‘Oh, get rid of it,’ or the comment of ‘Fireworks cause fires.’ That’s like saying a spoon made me get fat. It’s people doing things irresponsibly and unsafely with fireworks that cause problems.”

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