ST. GEORGE – Unlike last year when firefighters in St. George and neighboring cities saw an increase in fireworks-related incidents during Independence Day, this year saw the opposite. Area firefighters are crediting increased awareness of dry conditions and fire danger for the reduction in potentially destructive activity.
“I think people seemed to be a little more conscious and a little more aware,” Santa Clara-Ivins Fire Chief Dan Nelsen said.
While fireworks were ignited across Santa Clara and Ivins, Nelson said he recalled at least one fireworks-related call the fire department responded to Wednesday night.
There was a little more activity in Washington City that night as firefighters responded to two minor brush fires and two trash fires they believe to have been ignited by fireworks, Washington City Fire Capt. Julio Reyes said.
“All day we had four calls involving fireworks and they were significantly small. We’re pretty happy with what we dealt with considering the elements and the dry conditions and what we could have been facing.”
More people appear to be paying attention to warnings and wanting to be safe while using fireworks, he added.
Some residents Nelson spoke to wanted to know where it was safe to light fireworks so they didn’t chance starting a fire.
“I appreciate the public attention to the fireworks restrictions and their attention to safety,” Nelson said.
Many municipalities enacted fireworks restrictions and supplied maps online of where fireworks could and could not be used.
Due to high-level of fire danger, the high temperatures and dry conditions leading up to the July 4 holiday, some municipalities restricted fireworks completely and even canceled their own fireworks shows.
Part of the added awareness is likely due to wildfires like the West Valley Fire burning near New Harmony, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said.
According to St. George Police dispatch records for July 4, St. George Police officers responded to over 20 fireworks-related calls Wednesday. Those calls were a mix of complaints about people using fireworks in restricted areas or using them past the allowable time, Stoker said.
Actual fireworks-related fire calls were few by comparison.
“We didn’t have as many calls this year,” Stoker said.
Of the calls firefighters responded to, many turned out to be minor incidents where the would-be fires were quickly doused by residents and bystanders before firefighters arrived.
More potentially serious incidents were quickly responded to and extinguished, Stoker said. This was due to the many firetrucks and crews the fire department had put on standby throughout the city.
Firetrucks and crews stationed at the Dixie Convention Center ended up responding to a fireworks-caused fire on a hillside on the west side of Interstate 15 south of the Dixie Drive interchange around 9:50 p.m.
A firework set off at a residence on West Dolce Cove had fallen over and shot off into the brush, St. George Fire Capt. Coty Chadburn said at the scene.
The fireworks caused a part of the hillside to light up with flames that could be seen from the highway. Fire crews responded in short order and had the flames out by 10:10 p.m.
It was one of the more significant incidents of the night, Stoker said, but overall, “it was a fairly calm night.”
“A lot of people are nervous over how dry it is. They don’t want to cause issues.”
Still, there were incidents involving illegal fireworks and people using fireworks in restricted places, he added.
Once firefighters or police officer told the individuals lighting the fireworks about the restrictions, they tended to be compliant, Stoker said, some people didn’t know they lived in fireworks-restricted areas.
“We’ll do some more education efforts through the city,” he said.
Overall, St. George firefighters were surprised at how calm the night was compared the previous years.
“It was pretty good this year,” Stoker said.
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