Local law enforcement and firefighters are going to have a blast this summer, especially around the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day.
Only it's not going to be fun.
This summer a number of past consumer fireworks restrictions have been lifted. This means more devices with bigger bangs and bigger potential for problems.
Legal fireworks now include many hand-held and ground based sparkling devices and aerials fireworks, such as cylindrical fountains, and cake or multiple tube fountains. These devices can shoot off miniature professional displays that can travel as high as 150 feet in the air.
The reason for these relaxed restrictions is simple: Money.
Many states struggling with shrinking revenues are looking for all kinds of ways to increase the tax coffers. More fireworks being purchased by consumers can lead to an increase in sales taxes and licensing fees.
The American Pyrotechnics Association, which we are sure was lobbying Utah and other states for changes in the laws, says that another reason is that "backyard fireworks" have become safer and the number of injuries has gone down significantly.
Well, that remains to be seen.
There is always the chance that when it comes to relaxing laws that deal with safety in order to make a few more tax dollars, you increase the amount of emergency coverage costs that are needed. In the end, states and municipalities may pay more responding to service calls, injuries and fires as a result of the proliferation of these new fireworks.
That was some of the concern expressed by law enforcement officials who got a first hand look at the new fireworks during a demonstration this week in Layton.
Officers anticipate many more noise complaints as well as calls about the debris leftover from the new aerial fireworks.
As for fire, this year may not be a big problem because of the wet spring. But in years to come it could be a major concern with drier conditions.
There is also the confusion factor as to where these new devices can be set off. Even though the state has allowed their use, municipalities still have the right to restrict where they can be set off. This has lead to confusing geographic restrictions from city to city.
The rule of thumb is the closer to the mountains you are, the higher probability of stiffer restrictions.
We hope the state and municipalities review the matter in a couple of years to see if the changes have more positive results than negative. Also, the state should look at more universal geographic restrictions rather than relying on each city to draw its own lines. This could avoid a lot of the confusion.
We hope everyone still puts safety first when using fireworks. Just because they are legal doesn't mean they aren't still lethal.