County firefighters get fewer fireworks calls over weekend; state issues additional fire restrictions

ST. GEORGE — This past holiday weekend, firefighters were surprised at the lack of calls related to fireworks-caused fires; however, officials aren’t easing up yet, and on Tuesday, the Washington County Commission passed a resolution supporting the latest round of fire restrictions issued by state fire managers.

Adam Heyder, Washington County Fire Warden, speaks to the Washington County Commission about fire restrictions and reduced fireworks calls had over the Fourth of July holiday, St. George, Utah, July 6, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Washington County/CEC, St. George News

“I think, so far, it’s helped considerably, especially through this last weekend,” Washington County Fire Warden Adam Heyder told the County Commission in reference to the public’s apparent adherence to previous fire restrictions implemented by local, state and federal agencies.

The night of the Fourth of July tends to be one of the busiest for fire agencies due to the many fires caused by private fireworks use. Last year it was estimated that at least 200 fireworks-related fire calls came into the dispatch center during the Fourth of July. Fire crews across the county were kept busy running from fire to fire, and it was anticipated this year would be no different.

“We had fairly minimal fireworks fires and campfires and those types of issues way, way less than what we had last year,” Heyder said. “Our residents behaved themselves for the most part.”

Heyder added that people who were visiting the area and not following restrictions were cited. This included out-of-town visitors in LaVerkin who ignited a brush fire near homes due to fireworks use late Sunday. The fire burned approximately 4.5 acres before it was knocked down by firefighters early Monday morning.

A wildfire burned 4.5 acres in LaVerkin late Sunday night, LaVerkin, Utah, July 4, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Anna Slack, St. George News

Other areas in the county, such as Washington City, were relatively quiet.

“It was a lot better than last year,” Washington City Fire Capt. Julio Reyes said.

The Washington fire department had scheduled for additional staff to be on duty to assist with the flood of fireworks-related calls that was expected, but aside from some minor incidents, nothing major occurred.

“We had prepared for the worst and hoped for the best,” Reyes said. “We’re happy with what we had to deal with. It really was a nice surprise.”

The few calls Washington City firefighters did respond to tended to involve people not disposing of fireworks properly, Reyes said, adding that this tends to cause small fires in dumpsters or trash cans, so there were still “opportunities for education.”

When asked if he felt the fire restrictions and drought warnings had an impact on this year’s reduced fireworks use, Reyes said he’d liked to assume people are paying attention.

“Let’s hope this lasts through the 24th (of July),” he said.

Fireworks at the 2021 Fourth of July Celebration at Greater Zion Stadium. St. George, Utah, July 3, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed

Washington County Commissioners Gil Almquist and Victor Iverson both said they were pleased to hear county residents appeared to be taking the restrictions and warnings seriously.

“We’re in a very, very serious drought,” Iverson said. “Conditions out there couldn’t be worse.”

As a result, the County Commission unanimously passed a resolution supporting stage 2 fire restrictions recently implemented by the state forester.

The new order impacts all unincorporated private lands and state lands within Beaver, Garfield, Kane, Iron and Washington counties and restricts the following:

  • Building, maintaining, attending or using any fire, campfire or stove fire. This includes charcoal grills and barbecues, coal and wood burning stoves and tent stoves and includes use at homes and in developed camping and picnic grounds.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area that is paved or free from dry vegetation.
  • Discharging or using any fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices including exploding targets.
  • Cutting, welding or grinding metal in areas of dry vegetation.
  • Operating a motorcycle, chainsaw, ATV or other small internal combustion engine without an approved and working spark arrestor.

The following persons and/or items are exempted from the above prohibitions:

  • Devices using pellets, pressurized liquid fuel or gas (stoves, fire pits, grills, heaters, lanterns, et cetera) that include shut-off valves are permitted when used in an area at least 3 feet or more from flammable material such as grasses or pine needles.
  • Persons with a permit or waiver issued by the division, specifically authorizing a specified act at a specific location. A waiver does not relieve the permittee of liability if a fire does occur.
  • Any on-duty firefighter in the performance of an official duty.

Any of the above acts is a violation of state law and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. These restrictions will be enforced by state and county law enforcement.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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