More than a third of Utah residents feel only government-sponsored events for specific celebrations should be allowed as the backdrop for setting off fireworks, while a quarter of the state’s population say they should be banned altogether in this time of extreme drought.
A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll of 808 Utah residents found that 38% of the participants say only the ignition of fireworks at official celebrations by government should be allowed, while 25% of the respondents assert fireworks should be banned outright.
Still, another 30% of those who took the survey say no additional restrictions are necessary, while 7% remain undecided or don’t know. The poll was conducted May7-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46%.
Jason Curry, deputy director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said fireworks are always a no-go until July 2, regardless, and firework restrictions hinge on many factors, including heat, drought, wind and other concerns.
“It’s too early to speculate at this point on where those restrictions are,” he said, but outright prohibitions exist in the urban wildland interface and in places like federally managed forests and state parks.
Earlier this year, the Salt Lake City Council voted to refrain from appropriating $25,000 for city firework celebrations this summer. In June 2021, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a citywide ban on open fires and the ignition of fireworks based on the recommendation of the city’s fire marshal.
This year, the city fire marshal has not recommended an all-out prohibition but has determined that prohibition zones, particularly along the Jordan River, be expanded. Residents can go to the city’s website to look at a map to determine where fireworks are restricted.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 71% of the state of Utah is in extreme drought and all of the state is abnormally dry.
Curry said previously that West-wide drought conditions are helping to transform what used to be a wildfire “season” into a year-round challenge. He pointed to the Boulder, Colorado grass fire that happened in December and rapidly spread.
A 25-acre wildfire in the mountains of Summit County last month in Utah was an early warning shot for responders and the public that these tinder-dry conditions lead to dramatically increased risk for fires that could easily reach catastrophic levels — especially as urban growth continues to spread to the foothills and mountains.
Last year, ahead of the July Fourth holiday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox was joined by multiple municipal leaders in a public plea for Utah residents to skip personal fireworks due to the drought and he is not backing down this year.
“Last year Utahns prevented 500 human-caused fires by playing it safe and smart. With another hot, dry summer upon us, we’re asking Utahns to once again follow area restrictions and use extreme caution with fireworks. A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to preventing wildfires,” Cox said Wednesday.
Correction: A previous version stated a slight majority of Utah residents polled feel only government-sponsored events for specific celebrations should be allowed as the backdrop for setting off fireworks. Just over a third of Utah residents polled feel that way.