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New Fireworks Limits Get Sparkling Support

Judy Fahys/KUER
Neigoborhood fireworks on a breezy 4th of July night burned acres of grassland and scorched homes in Cottonwood Heights last summer. A legislative reform will restrict the days fireworks are permited and increase fines for violating the fireworks law.

Emergency agencies counted 1,100 fires last July, during the peak season for fireworks in Utah. And, even though fireworks caused only some of those blazes, state lawmakers are getting new restrictions ready before next summer.

The move comes after an anxious July, 2017. It was the hottest on record and pretty dry, too. Fire restrictions practically covered the entire state because the landscape was so dry.

“I received dozens and dozens of calls and emails by concerned citizens of Millcreek who were worried about fireworks,” says Jeff Silvestrini, mayor of Millcreek. “Particularly, they were worried about fire conditions.”

He supports changes to state law that would cut the number of days Utahns can legally use fireworks from 14 to 8. The days are around 4th of July and Pioneer Day.

State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, voted a only few years ago to ease Utah’s fireworks restrictions. But his views have changed.

“And now that we’ve had five years of experience. I think my constituents and I think constituents probably statewide are saying it’s too much,” he says. “We’ve gone too far.”

Supporters say fewer days of fireworks means less air pollution and better public safety.

Lawmakers are fast-tracking the reforms. And, because of the bill’s bipartisan support, there’s a good chance they’ll have it in place before the next Independence Day.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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