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Ogden officials say while their hands are tied, there is support for outright fireworks ban during drought

By Mitch Shaw standard-Examiner - | Jun 11, 2021

OGDEN — Ogden City officials say the restrictions they’ve already put in place are the peak of what they can legally do to stop fireworks during the ongoing drought.

But while their hands are somewhat tied, those officials say they support an outright ban on the aerial pyrotechnics this year.

Earlier this week, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox banned the use of fireworks on all state and unincorporated lands in Utah. And in May, the governor said an outright ban of all fireworks is in play, especially if the current drought landscape doesn’t significantly improve.

“All indicators show this could be the worst drought year on record,” Cox said Tuesday.

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. NIDIS says 65% 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.

In response, Ogden City has issued a “declaration of moderate water shortage,” which is effective through Oct. 15, or until further notice. Subsequently, provisions of Ogden’s Water Shortage Management Plan are in force, which means all outdoor watering is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The city says violating that order could result in fines of $50 for the first violation, going up from there after repeated infractions.

The city has also banned the use of all fireworks, matches or other ignition sources in the following locations: all areas east of Harrison Boulevard; all wooded areas along the Ogden and Weber River parkways, including all associated parks there; all of Fort Buenaventura, the city baseball park and dog park area, located off A Avenue; the old landfill at approximately 2550 A Ave., near the fort; and all open fields, vacant lots, wooded areas, and brush-covered hillsides throughout the city.

A violation of the notice could result in a class B misdemeanor. Residents can report fires and fireworks to the Weber Area Consolidated Dispatch Center at 801-629-8221. The ban is in effect now and, unless environmental conditions change significantly, won’t be lifted until Sept. 20.

Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said his office has regularly heard from residents, asking for a full fireworks ban within the city.

“We are trying to get the word out about the fire restrictions and we’re watching it as closely as we can,” Johnson said during a Tuesday City Council meeting. “We cannot ban fireworks, we’ve had several … emails suggesting that we ban them — we can’t. State law prohibits us from doing that. Now the governor, or the Legislature could take further action, which we hope they do, because we’re really worried about any fireworks this year.”

Johnson said at last check, Ogden’s primary water source, Pineview Reservoir, is at about 56% of capacity. That fact is concerning by itself, Johnson said, but the current temperature of the water compounds the issue.

“The temperature of the water is the highest we’ve seen this time of year, ever,” Johnson said. “Which means algae blooms and other things will be forming in the dam and we don’t really know the extent of being able to treat that water. So this is a dire situation and we are aware of that.”

Algae blooms can contain high concentrations of a harmful bacteria, which when exposed to humans, can cause skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, headaches and fever. Blooms are dangerous for humans, pets, fish and wildlife.

Johnson said officials from the city’s fire and water departments are on the June 15 City Council agenda, set to lead an in-depth city discussion on the drought and fire conditions.

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