Robert Kirby: Utah renames July Fourth ‘Set the Mountain on Fire Day'

Robert Kirby

Most Utahns with any form of connection to the outside world know we have entered the burn zone. Anyone who lives anywhere close to something flammable — like a house, a tree, or even just clothing — is on edge.

That’s because Independence Day — known in Utah as “Set the Mountain on Fire Day” — is less than a week away. It’s time to go over the do’s and don’ts of celebrating with fire as responsibly as possible.

“Responsibly” is a big word for some people. Four syllables. Most understand that it means behaving in such a way as to avoid injury and/or destruction to others.

A good example of acting responsibly might be something like, “Hey, let’s not set off fireworks near a field of dry grass close to that assisted living center.”

But if that didn’t stop you, and your bottle rocket started a blaze that burned out of control, destroyed nine houses and injured six firefighters, then you should responsibly turn yourself into the authorities and accept the blame.

Oh, go ahead and laugh. I didn’t necessarily mean you. I meant responsible people.

Now that we have covered conducting oneself responsibly with combustibles — all of which I learned from the Old Man, various fire departments and my wife — let’s focus on the pending end of the world, which officially starts Thursday.

Theoretically — and legally — the use of fireworks in Utah is limited to July 2-5 for July Fourth celebrations and July 22-25 for Pioneer Day. I say theoretically because, like responsibly, it’s a big word (six syllables; count them) for some people. It means that’s what is expected to occur.

I’m something of an expert on irresponsibility, with its seven syllables, so please consider that the following suggestions were painfully learned, and I still have the marks.

First, don’t buy fireworks you can’t immediately control. By this, I mean fireworks so big or that go so fast you are unable to contain their destructive power by throwing your own body on top of them should something go awry.

Next, have witnesses. This isn’t to help you establish an alibi. Knowing that you are being observed by people perfectly willing to rat you out lends itself to a pause commonly referred to as “having second thoughts.”

Teach your children how to safely handle fireworks, including sparklers, glow worms and poppers. Know that I am speaking to mothers here. Men immediately lose half their capacity for reason whenever explosives are nearby.

Guy No. 1 (or Sonny) • “OK, we have 450 pounds of black powder in our armory. Should last us until Christmas.”

Guy No. 2 (or me) • “Or … or we can make the world’s biggest firecracker out of this empty oil drum. Eh? Think about it.”

When buying fireworks — including ones that are legal in Utah — please note that the phrase “Use Only Under Adult Supervision” printed on the package does not refer to men regardless of their age.

Give one of us a sparkler or a stick of dynamite and we immediately revert to 12-year-olds. Left to our own devices, the average grown man and two friends will figure out a way to destroy an entire hospital with a birthday candle.

Please be careful with whatever goes boom this summer. This is probably the last warning most of us are going to get.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.

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