Expect lasers to replace some fireworks in Salt Lake City’s skies this July.
Pointing to concerns regarding air quality and Utah’s ongoing drought, the Salt Lake City Council in March narrowly voted to suspend its usual fireworks shows on the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day this summer. The city typically budgets $25,000 for these events.
Instead, the city will host its first-ever Laser Light Nights, put on by local company Dynamic FX. Admission is free for both Saturday events: The first on Saturday at Jordan Park and the second on July 23 at Liberty Park. Shows will begin after sundown and last between 15 and 20 minutes.
“As our drought worsens, high fire danger is always a concern,” said Lynze Twede, Salt Lake City’s public lands events manager. “Replacing fireworks with lasers will give residents the breathtaking show they are looking for without harming our environment, increasing noise pollution, or increasing fire danger.”
Why no fireworks?
Salt Lake County — and the majority of Utah — is experiencing extreme drought conditions, so much so that Gov. Spencer Cox characterized the state as a “tinderbox.” Last week, the governor, city mayors and firefighting authorities implored Utahns to forgo the use of personal fireworks this year in light of such conditions.
Fireworks and wildfires are undeniably linked. Over the last three years in Utah, the number of human-caused wildfires has spiked on the Fourth of July. Though there were fewer human-caused wildfires in 2021, they still made up the majority. Fireworks accounted for 14 wildfire starts last year.
Laura Briefer, Salt Lake City’s director of public utilities, said wildfires can further stress the city’s water supplies. Salt Lake City relies on mostly surface water sources, with 50 to 60% of those sources being free-flowing streams along the Wasatch Front, all of which are well below their average levels.
Since many of Salt Lake City’s residential areas lie along the foothills or stream corridors, launching personal fireworks potentially can cause wildfires that put those already struggling water sources at further risk, Briefer said. Wildland fires can destroy vegetation that keeps soil in place, contaminate water supplies and make water difficult to treat.
The viability of Salt Lake City’s water sources can even be connected to the health of the Great Salt Lake, Briefer said.
“It takes stewardship of the watershed from the tops of the mountains all the way to the lake to help keep the system healthy,” she said. “I see these things as very interconnected and interrelated, and the decisions we make could have positive or negative unintended impacts somewhere down the line.”
Aside from drought concerns, fireworks also worsen air quality, said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.
There is usually a spike in particulate air pollution in the days preceding and following the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day, Bird said.
“The other times during the summer when we see elevated particulate level is during times when there’s fires,” Bird said. “And, unfortunately, those two [fireworks and wildfires] are connected more often than we would like.”
The air pollution resulting from firework smoke causes fine particulate matter level to exceed federal air quality standards, Bird said, which can harm public health. People with respiratory conditions, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to such health risks.
In Salt Lake City, fireworks with a fuse — for example, sparklers, rockets and fountains — are prohibited west of Redwood Road, north of South Temple, east of 900 east, in city parks, in the area near the Jordan River Parkway, and on all federally owned land.
For Independence Day, the window for Utahns to purchase fireworks from state- and locally-approved stores for Independence Day opened on June 24, and will close on July 25. Fireworks can only be lit from July 2 to July 5. For Pioneer Day, Utahns can light fireworks from July 22 to July 25.
“It’s a sad reality that we’re facing, in terms of this drought and the causes of this drought, which is likely climate change,” Briefer said. “Let’s try to capture the spirit of celebration in a different way that doesn’t add as much risk to public health and the environment and our water resources.”
Professional displays this weekend
Even though authorities recommend skipping personal fireworks this year, there are dozens of professional fireworks shows scheduled around the state this Independence Day weekend. All are scheduled for Monday, July 4, unless noted otherwise. Most start at dusk, around 10 p.m.
Brigham City: Brigham City’s Fourth of July Celebration.
Cedar City: Cedar City 4th of July.
Clearfield: Clearfield City Centennial.
Delta: July 4th festivities.
Duchesne: Independence Day Celebration.
Hurricane: Hurricane City Independence Day.
Kanab: Kanab’s Small Town Independence Day Celebration.
Kaysville: Kaysville 4th Celebration.
Layton: Layton City Liberty Days.
Lehi: Independence Day Celebration.
Logan: Fireworks Show at Willow Park (Saturday).
Magna: Magna Independence Day Celebration.
Murray: Murray Fun Days.
North Ogden: 2022 Cherry Days.
North Salt Lake: Liberty Fest (Saturday).
Oakley: 2022 Oakley Independence Day Celebration.
Park City: July 3rd Weekend Celebration at Canyons Village (Sunday).
Parowan: 4th of July Independence Day Celebration.
Provo: Stadium of Fire (Saturday).
Richfield: Independence Day Celebration.
Riverton: Town Days Fireworks.
Salt Lake City:
Independence Day Fireworks at the Salt Lake Bees game.
Laser Light Nights at Jordan Park (Saturday).
Sandy: July 4th Freedom Day.
St. George: 4th of July Parade and Events.
Tooele: Bit n’ Spur Rodeo.
West Bountiful: July 4th Celebration.
West Jordan: Western Stampede Independence Day Fireworks.