UINTAH HIGHLANDS -- Layton Fire Chief Kevin Ward believes the Weber County Commission is playing with fire.
Weber County is one of only two counties that have not asked the state forester to impose fireworks and open-fire restrictions in its unincorporated area, said Jason Curry, public information officer with the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.
Curry said the state is always concerned about fire danger, and this year, with the lack of precipitation, the high temperatures and the forecast for more of the same, the concern is even greater.
And Ward lives in an unincorporated area of Weber County.
"I'm just appalled," he said about the commissioners' decision.
"They're allowing the opportunity for citizens to use fireworks in areas where there is low fuel moisture, heavy fuel loading, the temperatures have been extreme and the humidity so low," Ward said.
"The fire danger along the Wasatch Front has been very high, and it's only going to get worse."
Ward is a fire chief, serves on the Board of the Weber Fire District and has 35 years of experience fighting wildland fires, including one fire that destroyed 478 homes.
Ward said a wildfire that could take out homes along the Wasatch Front is not a matter of "if," but a matter of "when."
Residents and government agencies should do everything they can to prevent a fire, he added.
The Department of Natural Resources issued a fire restriction order June 26 that includes Box Elder, Cache, Davis and Morgan counties.
It applies only to the unincorporated areas. No fire restrictions are in place for unincorporated areas of Weber County.
Weber County Commissioner Matthew Bell said commissioners are still gathering information, so they can make the appropriate decisions "and not knee-jerk decisions."
"We don't want to ban open fires in the incorporated areas of the county when the (U.S.) Forest Service still allows it," he said.
Cities in the area that have issued fire and fireworks restrictions include North Ogden, Ogden, Pleasant View, Roy, South Weber, South Ogden and Washington Terrace.
Weber County Fire Chief Dave Austin said the Legislature changed Utah's law this year, allowing cities to restrict or ban the use of fireworks.
It also allows the state forester to restrict or ban the use of fireworks "after consulting with the county fire code official having jurisdiction over that area," according to Utah state code.
Austin said he believes the state forester is "consolidating" the fireworks amendment with the "closed fire season" law, which does not allow any fires from June 1 to Oct. 31.
Austin is trying to work out a resolution between the county and the state, but it won't happen before the Fourth of July, so he's hoping residents will use common sense.
The Weber County Commission does not want to have a fireworks and fire restriction in the unincorporated areas of the western part of the county, Austin said.
The commissioners have told him they want those restrictions in the eastern side of the county, which includes the Uintah Highlands, Shadow Valley and the upper valley areas, Austin said.
The state does not want to split the county, he said.
"The state normally does not do that. It would be quite a nightmare if the state started breaking apart counties, and it would cause a lot more confusion."
Austin said he understands both the county's side and the state's side, but more importantly, he hopes residents will be prudent.
Ward has cleared his property around his home of any fuels that could be a potential danger.
But he won't be home on the Fourth of July.
He will be in Layton, working.
"I'm counting on the Weber Fire Department and their professional services if something happens."