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Ogden officials continue to push fireworks ban education, hoping for safe Pioneer Day

By Mitch Shaw standard-Examiner - | Jul 10, 2021
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The Valdez and Silva families launch fireworks on the street in front of their home in central Ogden on Tuesday, July 4, 2018.

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From left, Hunter Roth, Isaac Thompson and Adam Thompson await buyers at the TNT Fireworks stand at 2nd Street and Washington Boulevard in Ogden on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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An Ogden City fire truck shown in 2020.

OGDEN — To the extent that it helped accomplish the ultimate goal — an absence of related fires — Ogden’s mayor said the city’s recent ban on fireworks proved to be successful.

But there were some scofflaws who flouted the rules and the city hopes continued reminders (via social media and other channels) combined with the increased punitive presence that was carried out over the July 4 holiday will make Pioneer Day weekend even safer.

Last month, in what before then had been an unprecedented move, the Ogden City Council and administration implemented an outright ban on fireworks and open flames anywhere inside city limits until at least late fall. The joint resolution prohibited the use of fireworks, open burnings and recreational fires anywhere in the city — a restriction that will extend until Nov. 15 or until environmental conditions improve, as determined by the city fire marshal.

Driven by the worsening, ongoing Utah drought, the city had discussed the ban for several weeks leading up to the June 25 action. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, 100% of Weber County is in a “severe drought,” the third most significant drought classification under the NIDIS monitoring system. And the NIDIS now says 92% of the county is in the “extreme drought” phase, the second most significant classification.

According to the NIDIS, all of the following can be present during an extreme drought: pasture and water is inadequate for cattle, air quality is poor, dust is a problem, vegetation is stressed and fire danger increases dramatically — the city’s prime reason for the outright, total ban on fireworks.

Over the Independence Day weekend, and in the days leading up to and following it, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the city’s fire department had a relatively quiet watch, which he attributed to the ban, but also noted there were numerous fireworks complaints and citations given for people who didn’t abide by the ban.

“We didn’t have any fires, we didn’t have any major issues,” Caldwell said, adding that was exactly what the city needed following a June 30 fire that destroyed a four-story, 40-unit apartment building.

“All of us that saw what happened with that apartment complex were horrified about that,” he said. “That was almost 3 million gallons of water and maybe that’s conservative. … We just don’t have it. … We don’t have the resources for that.”

Mike Slater, spokesman for the Ogden Fire Department, told the Standard-Examiner earlier this week that there were just two reports of fires caused by fireworks between July 2 and July 5, but both of them were minor and extinguished before firefighters arrived on the scene. But while fires were limited, complaints about people flouting the ban were not.

“We had 200 calls for service and complaints about fireworks from June 1 through (June 5),” Caldwell said.

The mayor said some of those were false alarms and not all involved citations, but they were present nonetheless. He said an official tally on citations is still being totaled, but noted that they were given when justified.

“Citations take a little bit longer to go through the system,” Caldwell said. “But we were very clear … we need to be writing citations, and they did write a lot of citations. That was part of our plan going in.”

The city will continue to push information to the public related to the ban, reminding people it’s valid for the July 24 weekend as well, and will take a similar punitive approach. All things considered though, Caldwell said most people are respecting the ban.

“I think people have mostly been very respectful of the environment we’re working in,” he said. “We’ve really appreciated the community’s support.”

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