Tribune Editorial: Time to put out the fireworks

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune July 4 revelers plays with sparklers before the Sugarhouse fireworks, Saturday, July 4, 2015.

Fireworks are lighting up the state capital again as legislators considered a bill on Wednesday to cut the number of days Utahns can embrace their pyromania. Legislators opened a committee bill file in August to review the issue, and are now moving forward with reforms.

Utah is unique in that we celebrate not one, but two, firework-worthy holidays in July – Independence Day on July 4 and Pioneer Day on July 24. Many Utahns take the two holidays as a reason to celebrate all month long, much to the chagrin of their early-to-bed and animal-loving neighbors.

Utah State Forester Brian Cottam told legislators in August that “stupid human tricks” doubled the cost of fighting wildfires to $18 million this year.

Frequent phone calls and emails to government leaders voicing dissent over the month-long fireworks frenzy have worked. Legislators are considering a bill that would drastically cut the days residents could use fireworks to two days before and one day after both holidays.

The Legislature legalized aerial fireworks in 2011 for the entire month of July, but scaled that back a year later to three days before and three days after each holiday. That’s still two full weeks. The proposed legislation is a significant change.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan said back in August, “I think that maybe we can still have fun, but maybe not quite so long.”

The proposed legislation will also give cities more control over their own city regulations. While cities still won’t be able to place an outright ban on fireworks within city limits, they will be able to place more restrictions on them, with input from fire officials. Additionally, those who sell fireworks will have to list legal dates to ignite them and maps where they are allowed.

We’ve argued before that excessive fireworks play is not only bothersome, it is often outright dangerous. Fire departments in Salt Lake County this past July responded to nearly 70 fireworks-related calls this week. A Midvale apartment complex was evacuated. Part of Tooele burned. Two homes in Cottonwood were also heavily damaged.

The Legislature is doing the right thing in scaling back July’s fire hazard. Utah’s dry, arid climate exacerbates the danger. And the tinder-dry, combustible foothills just beg for ignition. Fireworks negatively impact our air quality as well as neighborhood dogs and other family pets.

It’s a completely preventable problem that we should be trying to prevent.