ST. GEORGE — Extreme drought and dwindling water supplies in Southern Utah has forced municipalities to take measures intended to protect citizens and property during holiday celebrations in July.
The penalties for violating these restrictions can be severe – both legally and financially – even if a citizen unintentionally or accidentally causes a fire with fireworks and even if it happens in a location where fireworks use is allowed.
In St. George, Fire Chief Robert Stoker told St. George News that the cost for violating fireworks ordinances can really add up. He said that discharging fireworks in restricted areas of the city and outside of the permitted dates are both class B misdemeanors with a $1,000 fine for each violation.
“Even in a non-restricted area, if they cause fire and damages, they could be liable for the suppression costs and damages,” Stoker said. “They are still liable for their actions.”
By ordinance, the city of St. George has designated the restricted areas and the permitted fireworks use locations on an interactive map on its website. Residents can type in their address and the program will indicate the nearest permitted location to discharge fireworks.
The city’s website also provides all of the current ordinances passed by the City Council about fireworks usage, including locations, dates and times when it’s permitted.
Stoker said that the cost for fire suppression and damages on a fire call are the responsibility of the party that violates the restrictions. Equipment and personnel costs are tallied by the hour.
A fire engine dispatched for a call costs $198 while a ladder truck is $210.
The cost of the drivers of the trucks is tacked on as well, along with the entire crew on the call – all fire personnel costs $36 per person.
Add property damage caused by fire and fines onto those expenses and the bill for fighting a fire caused by fireworks usage potentially becomes extremely costly.
Stoker said he is expecting a very busy Fourth of July weekend and all fire department staff and personnel will be on the job.
“The main problem we’ve encountered in years past is people bringing illegal fireworks from out of state and setting them off here,” Stoker said.
He added that just north of St. George and Little Valley out by the airport are both restricted areas where illegal fireworks have frequently been discharged in past holiday celebrations.
Another commonly occurring problem, Stoker said, is when fireworks debris is not disposed of safely.
“Be careful to dispose of your fireworks properly. Each year we get fires started in trash cans,” Stoker said, adding that ignited fireworks refuse should be soaked with water before it is swept into the trash.
“What you get is, trash cans that are stored next to houses and have smoldering fireworks in them, when it’s hot and windy, actually burn the homes,” Stoker said, recalling a house in Little Valley a couple of years ago that was completely destroyed by such a fire.
“Be careful with your debris, and store your trash cans away from the home,” Stoker said.
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