Utah lawmakers are putting the kibosh on fireworks with new restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of brush fires after a particularly fire-prone summer.
The Utah House on Wednesday passed a bill (H.B. 38) that will reduce the overall number of days fireworks are allowed by 40 percent. That means revelers can only shoot off fireworks for four days around the July 4 and Pioneer Day holidays instead of seven.
Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, is the bill’s sponsor.
“We think reducing that by almost half, the number of days that [fireworks] can be legally discharged, as a fire official said, that’s a tremendous step in the right direction for those that are concerned about their animals and noise and air quality," he said.
The bill also increases penalties for violators and gives local governments greater control over where fireworks are prohibited, including 200 feet from sensitive areas like canyons, creeks and ravines.
Several hundred brush fires caused extensive damage last year. In July alone, fireworks accounted for 180 of 1,100 brush fires, according to the state fire marshal.
Rep. Marie Poulsen, a Democrat representing Cottonwood Heights, said the bill didn’t go far enough for her. Several of her neighbors had to evacuate homes due to brush fires caused by sparks from fireworks.
Poulsen wanted to amend the bill to allow cities to enact wholesale bans during dry spells, but lawmakers resisted.
“Here in our legislature, we talk about local control all the time unless we want to control the locals,” Poulsen said in a gibe at the Republican majority.
Dunnigan said the bill is the result of compromise among several stakeholders, including fire officials, mayors and fireworks manufacturers. He said he hopes the new rules — and people using common sense — will cut down on the number of fires.