Fire fear forces fireworks ban
Park City, Summit County adopt measures that officials hope will stave off blazes
By Jay Hamburger
OF THE RECORD STAFF

As the 4th of July and Pioneer Day approach, two key local governments this week passed laws regulating fireworks, rules that officials say are necessary given the area's tinderbox conditions.
The Summit County Commission and the Park City Council on successive days approved restrictions on the use and sales of fireworks.

From June 19 to July 27, the sales of Class C fireworks, which is the category that includes many popular fireworks used by the public, are banned. Meanwhile, the use of those fireworks is banned until Oct. 1.

Park City Fire Chief Kelly Gee, whose district includes Park City and the west side of Summit County, praised the restrictions, saying that they will be of assistance as the holidays approach.

"I think it's the right thing to do, he said in an interview after the votes. "This summer could be one of the most active fire seasons we've ever had.

He said lots of new grass has sprouted, which provides fuel for wildfires. He also said there are concerns about water supplies to fight fires.

"As dry as it's been and the lack of water, we might not have the water resources available, Gee said.

Gee said the bans could help the area avoid big fires during the summer.

"To get one of the volatile hazards out of the way, such as fireworks, we have a better chance of making it through the summer, Gee said, adding, "Common sense tells the reasonable person out there not to use fireworks.

The traditional public fireworks display at Park City Mountain Resort is scheduled as planned, however.

Ron Ivie, the chief building official for Park City, drafted a report that was submitted to the City Council before Thursday's vote. He said the rules are needed this summer.

"It's not just Park City. It's everybody. It's justified, Ivie said, adding that the rules are similar to one that was in effect in 2002.

"Last year, I think we had 11 reported incidents of violations, although we'd hope to have none, Ivie said. "I think it was effective. I'd hope for the same this year.

The City Council received no public testimony before the vote. Last year, a fireworks-industry lobbyist had criticized the 2002 rule, saying that it would be tough on the industry.

Included in the Class C category of fireworks are, according to Ivie's report:

Firecrackers, cannon crackers, salutes or cherry bombs.

Bottle rockets, skyrockets or any other device other than a model rocket that explodes or burns and rises more than 15 feet when set off.

Roman candles or other fireworks that discharge balls of fire over 15 feet high.

A tube or cone aerial firework that propels comets, shells, salutes, flash shells or similar devices more than 15 feet into the air.

A chaser, whistler or other device that darts or travels more than 10 feet laterally on a smooth surface or exceeds more than 15 feet in height when discharged.

People who violate the laws could face a class B misdemeanor charge. Such charges are punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000 for an individual or $5,000 for a corporation.

Ivie said violators could also be forced to pay the costs of putting a fire out and they could face civil lawsuits as well.

"There's a tremendous risk people take if they illegally use these products, Ivie said.