“We were called out to eight fires on the Fourth of July, all of which were brush fires and all were caused by fireworks,” said T.J. Brewer, a battalion chief with the Moab Valley Fire Department. “We had almost all of our engines and volunteer firefighters out responding. That was one of those nights when you are glad you have the resources.”
Brewer said that while none of the fires was serious, a blaze on Rimrock Road did threaten a couple of structures before it was extinguished.
In another one of the incidents, a stray spark from the professional fireworks show apparently ignited a trash fire at the nearby county landfill shortly after 10 p.m. Crews responded and were battling the fire even before the show finished. The other seven fires in town that evening were all believed to be caused by personal fireworks, Brewer said.
Now that the Independence Day holiday has passed, the next weeklong window during which Class C personal fireworks may be discharged in Utah is from July 21 to 27, coinciding with the Pioneer Day holiday, according to information from the state fire marshal. Fireworks may be discharged between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on the days indicated (July 21-27), except for July 24 (Pioneer Day), when the time is extended an extra hour until midnight.
Citing dry and hazardous fire conditions, the Utah Interagency Fire Center has implemented fire restrictions for Southeast Utah effective Friday, July 11. The restrictions apply to federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, state lands and all unincorporated private lands in Carbon, Emery, Grand, and San Juan counties.
According to the restrictions, the following activities are prohibited in the areas indicated above until further notice:
• Campfires or open fires of any kind, except in improved picnic areas or designated campground facilities.
• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or that is cleared to the mineral soil.
• Discharging or using fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices, firing tracer ammunition, or using welding or metal-cutting equipment.
Any violation of the regulations is punishable as a class B misdemeanor, according to the Utah Interagency Fire Center, which comprises several agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Although Manti-La Sal National Forest Service lands are not included in the current restrictions, campers and outdoor recreationists are encouraged to use caution in those areas as well.
In addition to possible fines of up to $5,000, violators may be held financially responsible for the suppression cost of any wildfires or other damages, according to a news release from the Interagency Fire Center, which also notes that it is illegal to possess or ignite fireworks on state or federal lands at any time.
“I would encourage everyone to make sure they know where fireworks are allowed, and to be careful. Conditions are dry,” said Heather O’Hanlon, a BLM public information officer who is responsible for fire mitigation and education.
The ban excludes any incorporated cities and towns, but notes that municipalities may impose their own restrictions. Moab city, for example, has its own set of fire restrictions already in place, including a ban on fireworks, smoking, open fires and combustible materials in all areas that are within 150 feet of either Mill Creek or Pack Creek.
Brewer encouraged fireworks users to keep a fire extinguisher or hose nearby, and to make sure the fireworks are launched from a flat surface in an area that is clear of weeds and other flammable debris.
Other tips for enjoying fireworks safely include using only legal fireworks as directed and without modification, and wearing protective clothing, including footwear.
More information about the fire restrictions, along with updates on fires and fire conditions throughout Utah, is available at utahfireinfo.gov.