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Crackdown on fireworks under way

UHP confiscates $1,000 worth of illegal pyrotechnics in single bust

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Utah Highway Patrol trooper Douglas D. Moss pulls a bag of fireworks from the back of an SUV pulled over on I-80 near Echo Canyon on Tuesday.

Utah Highway Patrol trooper Douglas D. Moss pulls a bag of fireworks from the back of an SUV pulled over on I-80 near Echo Canyon on Tuesday.

Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News

The pickings were easy for Utah Highway Patrol troopers who continued to crackdown Tuesday on people transporting illegal fireworks into Utah.

The UHP joined forces with the state fire marshal to enforce restrictions on illegal fireworks during this high fire-danger season. In a joint press conference along I-80 near Echo, Summit County, Fire Marshal Ron Morris and UHP Col. Lance Davenport urged Utahns to use common sense when using fireworks and to remember they are playing with explosive materials.

A bright orange Forest Service helicopter flew overhead, serving as a reminder of the fires currently burning around the state.

"With the dry weather we've had it's like a tinderbox ready to go," said Morris. "Any little spark will set it off."

Morris said that from 2002 to 2006, 367 fires in Utah were fireworks-related, causing about a half million dollars in damage.

Davenport displayed illegal fireworks three UHP officers confiscated during a few hours Monday night near Echo. One cruiser showcased the contents of a single bust worth about $1,000.

"Probably the most painful part of getting caught is telling your neighbors you lost the money and have no fireworks," said Davenport.

Getting caught transporting illegal fireworks is a class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The typical fine for illegal transportation of fireworks in Summit county is $106.

Members of the media were invited to go on a ride-along with UHP troopers following the press conference.

Motorists are not pulled over randomly to be searched for fireworks. Officers watch for other violations and then, once the vehicle is pulled over, look for fireworks or other violations in plain view.

Within minutes, four UHP cruisers with ride-alongs successfully pulled over vehicles loaded with illegal contraband. Sgt. Michael Loveland spotted a keg in the back of a pickup covered by a T-shirt. Trooper Landon Middaugh stopped to help trooper Doug Moss with his bust of $450 worth of illegal alcohol and fireworks.

"I still can't believe they just told me they were in Evanston to buy beer," said Moss. "We don't catch the smart ones."

The three men stopped by Moss returned to West Valley empty-handed — no beer or fireworks. The 28-year-old driver was charged with unlawful transportation of alcohol into the state and possession of illegal fireworks.

"It was for the kids" said one of the men, referring to the fireworks. "Now they won't have any."

Morris recommends letting the professionals do the fireworks displays and using common sense when using legal fireworks. Residents can go to www.firemarshal.utah.gov for a complete list of fireworks legal in Utah.

"If you didn't buy your fireworks in the state of Utah," said Morris, "please don't light them in the state of Utah."

Rules of thumb for fireworks

Fireworks bought in Utah are legal.

Anything that launches and goes higher than 15 feet is illegal.

If the fuse is on top, it's legal; if it's on the bottom, it's not.

Fireworks can legally be used three days before the holiday and three days after.

Obey all location restrictions.

E-mail: dramsay@desnews.com