In Draper, a house fire killed a woman and injured a small child. The cause had yet to be determined as of Tuesday.
Meanwhile, temperatures seem stuck in the 90 to 100 degree range. The Federal Emergency Management Agency this week issued heat advisories for much of the Wasatch Front.
It’s dangerously hot, which isn’t unusual for this time of year.
What about that makes sense?
A whole lot, apparently. Look around the country. Only one state, Massachusetts, bans all fireworks, right down to sparklers. No exceptions, even for the Fourth of July. But Massachusetts gets about 43 inches of rain per year. In Boston, the high is supposed to be 68 on Wednesday.
Here? Well, it was hot enough last weekend that a toddler in Utah County suffered second-degree burns just by crawling over a metal threshold in a home’s doorway.
The rest of the country deals with household fireworks only one time in July, on Independence Day. Here in Utah, we do it twice. Why?
I never win any popularity contests by bringing this up. I assure you I love both Independence Day and Pioneer Day. I celebrate each gladly and love to enjoy professionally produce fireworks displays. The events of this day 172 years ago, and the subsequent exodus here by thousands of pioneers, was a demonstration of faith and determination that continues to inspire countless people.
But I cringe as I begin to hear the rapid-fire pops of store-bought explosives (some, presumably, from stores in Wyoming) punctuating the normal quiet of my neighborhood every year in July.
Whenever I write about this, people send me copies of John Adams’ famous letter to his wife about his desire to solemnize Independence Day “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
Most of us tend to agree with the need to keep people from shooting guns in the air to celebrate in July. They don’t try to evoke Adams on that one. But touch their fireworks and you’ve got a fight on your hands, even if it’s for a state holiday Adams didn’t live to hear about.
People also sarcastically tick off a list of other things they say I probably want the government to outlaw, from lightning to automobiles. Some demand statistics to prove that amateur fireworks are more dangerous than other things that start fires.
Think about that for a minute. The weather is hot and dry. Fires already rage all over the state due to other reasons, but some people demand statistics to be convinced it’s dangerous to add yet another incendiary element into the mix.
Fortunately, KSL-TV compiled statistics recently to answer that one. It turns out fireworks-related fires have spiked since 2011, when state lawmakers liberalized the law to allow for certain aerial explosives. In 2010 there were 74 such fires. That was the last year the number was less than 100, with the lone exception of 2013, when heavy rain fell on July 4. Last year, the number was 203. The figures are incomplete because not all fire districts reported, but the trend is clear.
Unified Fire Authority spokesman Matthew McFarland put this in perspective as he told KSL: “This is all by choice. This isn’t lightning strikes. These aren’t even camp fires, or anything like that. These are people choosing to recreate with fire. And it’s entertaining. I get it, but it’s a big risk when you choose to play with fireworks. So, you’ve got to do it responsibly.”
Of course, cities and counties in Utah are free to impose restrictions based on local conditions. And so, each year at this time we get a complicated list of streets and areas in many cities where fireworks are banned. It’s confusing.
KSL found no record of any fire departments issuing citations for violating restrictions, among those departments that track such things.
Yes, I would ban all non-professional fireworks displays in Utah. It makes little sense to do otherwise.
But because that isn’t going to happen any time soon, all anyone can do is plead with people to be safe and cautious the rest of this week as they explode things late into the night.