Some Lehi residents irked by cannon blasts CATHY ALLRED -
If moving to a new community isn't difficult enough, Trevor Gerber's family has found it a challenge adapting to at least one tradition in their neighborhood -- Lehi's observance of Independence Day.

He moved to his Lehi home in the spring of 2002 and on July 4 he was startled out of his sleep by a loud explosion.

Since the early 1900s, the city's firefighters have greeted every Fourth of July at 6 a.m. by setting off a series of 12 to 15 loud explosions, called salutes, throughout the city. The event is believed to honor a tradition that may have begun by city pioneers in 1876, the country's centennial.

Gerber has not been amused by the raucous wakening. He spoke out about the problem at a recent city council meeting.

Gerber asked council members to put a stop to the practice.

"It has been a tradition for as long as I can remember," said Councilman Johnny Barnes. "There are many who are passionate about it, but there are many people who are passionate about their sleep."

Councilman Mark Johnson said after a while the problem does go away.

"I would say after eight years you get used to it," he said.

City administrator Jamie Davidson took Gerber's contact information and said he would look into the matter.

"I think it's inconvenient for residents of Lehi," said Gerber of the custom in a phone interview. He said he also wondered if the money for the cost of the explosives could be better used elsewhere.

The expense for the salutes is included in the cost of the Thanksgiving Point fireworks, which the city pays for as a community celebration.

"Our firefighters welcome the tradition and look forward to shooting them off," Fire Chief Dale Ekins said. "We do not look at this tradition as an irritant to our citizens, but a reminder of our freedoms and what the holiday means."

Firing off salutes in Lehi on the Fourth goes back more than two or three generations.

The earliest recorded celebration on July 4 is noted in Lehi historian Richard Van Wagoner's book "Lehi: Portrait of a Utah Town." By their standards, Lehi pioneers may have thought today's 10 to 15 salutes at 6 a.m. a weak beginning for a federal holiday.

In 1876, the town of approximately 1,200 observed Independence Day by firing 100 guns in honor of the number of years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

For a climactic finish, an anvil was fired by lighting a charge of black powder under it, causing a "clap like thunder."

Ten years later it is also recorded that those first settlers celebrated the Fourth of July by firing a cannon in the early morning hours and unfurling the United States flag with the accompaniment of brass and string bands. In 1903, a 13-gun salute was fired at dawn with a 45-gun salute at sunrise.

"They used to ring the bell and shoot the muskets off in front of the fire house," said fire marshal Kerry Evans. "It's a patriotic symbol of our freedoms."

The tradition may be more than patriotic, because it is also a time when the firefighters can celebrate the holiday with their families. After the salutes are given, a signal that the fire department is on duty, the day has begun, firefighters and their families meet at the fire station for breakfast.

"We usually have a good turnout of our members," Ekins said. "It is a good time to involve the families with our firefighters."

The families go home after the meal and the firefighters work on what can be one of the busiest days of the year, said Ekins. Often they were called out while monitoring or shooting off the city's fireworks to a douse a fire or respond to a holiday accident.

"As our town grows, we are getting busier, but our full-time members have decreased our response time by better than half of what we used to be," Ekins said. "We are on scene at an average of five to six minutes rather than our time of 11 to 12 minutes before we had firefighters full time."

Jackie Springgay

The Lehi Fire Department shoots off a patriotic salute with a series of explosives at 6 a.m. on Independence Day every year. The salute is very loud, said Lehi residents, and some people just love the salute. Others have a different opinion and would rather not be woken up by it.

"(The salute should go off) because it represents our patriotism for our country and the freedom for our country."

Jeanie Vazquez

"It is the Fourth of July and we should honor it by welcoming the morning with a salute."

Steve Dunn

"Yes, I think we should because it's patriotic."

Jessie Allred

"I don't care (if they do the salute). If they want to, let them do it. They can wake up and think about what America means to them and then go back to sleep."

Shauntel Anderson

"No (the salute should not go off). Six a.m. is too early and they should wait until noon."

Breanne Anderson

"I think it's cool and patriotic and people should be up already, or they are just lazy with their summer."

Teressa Anderson

"Yes (the salute should happen) because it shows support for our troops and celebrates Independence Day."

Sonja Candie

"Yes (the salute should happen) because that's what the day is all about. We're celebrating patriotism, freedom, the flag and our country."

Liz Laudie

"(The salute going off) is how I know it's the Fourth of July. They have done it ever since I can remember. It is tradition. It is how I know it is 6 a.m."

Emily Foster

"Yes [the salute should happen] because we always expect it. It is tradition."

Laura John