ST. GEORGE – The number of days people can legally set off fireworks could be reduced as state lawmakers consider legislation restricting fireworks use around the July holidays.
Currently, Utah law allows fireworks three days before and after July 4 and 24. Including the holidays themselves, fireworks can be used for 14 days in July. Last week members of the Legislature’s Business and Labor Interim Committee discussed a proposed bill that would cut those days in half.
Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, propose to reduce the days fireworks can legally be used to two days before the July holidays and one day after. The bill does not affect fireworks use for New Year’s Day or the Chinese New Year.
The bill, which is in its 16th version, is considered a compromise most parties involved in crafting it largely agree on, Dunnigan said. Those parties have included fireworks retailers, county and municipal officials and various fire agencies.
Some cities wanted the legal fireworks days reduced to just one day before and after the holiday and wanted a ban on aerial fireworks, both Dunnigan and Iwamoto said.
Aerial fireworks remain legal while the proposed legislation extends cities the ability to restrict when and where fireworks can be used.
“All we’re trying to do is keep people from discharging in these hazardous areas so people will still be able to enjoy them,” Dunnigan said during the committee meeting Nov. 15.
While blanket bans aren’t allowed under the proposed bill, it allows municipalities to restrict fireworks in areas it deems hazardous, such as grassy and brush-covered areas. Fireworks use could also be restricted within 200 feet of waterways, trails, canyons, washes and similar areas.
Reasons behind the proposed litigation involve worries over fire danger, noise, air pollution and other issues Dunnigan and other legislators said they received a quite a few calls about from constituents.
Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said he received a “baptism by fireworks” during his first term as mayor due to the flood of calls he received in July that were fireworks complaints. During the July holidays, Millcreek’s firefighters responded to so many fire calls that some emergency calls had to end up waiting.
“That’s an unacceptable situation,” Silvestrini said. “We need to have some sanity here, and I think this compromise moves us closer to that position.”
According to data presented by Dunnigan, state fire officials estimated that out of the 1,100 fires ignited across Utah in July, 16 percent of those are believed to have been started by fireworks.
In St. George alone, the Fire Department responded to between 17 and 20 calls the night of July 4.
Other elements of the proposed legislation included increasing the fine for setting off fireworks in a restricted area from $750 to $1,000.
As for fireworks retailers, they would be made to provide information to customers concerning when and where they can use legally use fireworks.
Richard McMullin, of TNT Fireworks, voiced his support of the proposed law during the meeting.
“Anytime you have unilateral power to do banning, to do restriction, that’s a problem. Because it’s an overreach,” he told Fox 13 News. “That’s why we tried to strike the balance.”
With the unanimous approval by the interim committee, the bill moves toward the 2018 session of the Utah Legislature.
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