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Cox’s aim to ban fireworks fizzles in legislature

By Ryne Williams special To The Standard-Examiner - | Jun 17, 2021
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Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

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Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

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Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

During Gov. Spencer Cox’s monthly press conference on Thursday, Cox touched on his want to ban fireworks statewide, his lack of authority to do so, the Legislature not wanting to tighten restrictions, and how easy it is to spark a fire in the current drought conditions.

The governor reportedly asked for an opinion from his legal counsel and the Attorney General with regards to being able to ban fireworks, but Cox said that he is unable to alter statutes.

“I do think it is a good idea,” Cox said of a statewide fireworks ban. “For me, fireworks are awesome, we love fireworks, we do fireworks every year with my kids and my family, but there are rare circumstances when things are so dire. If it were up to me, a really easy fix would say that any areas that are in exceptional drought shouldn’t have fireworks. That’s just a really easy fix.”

He added that the statute is messy but that communities have the authority to put harder restrictions into place to some extent.

According to Cox, he is currently trying to get legal options out to communities so that they understand what they can do. He said he is encouraging local communities to put more restrictions in place.

“I’ve told the Legislature I think it is a terrible idea not to have additional restrictions this year — they haven’t shown any interest in doing anything or around that so we are relying on local governments to put those restrictions in place,” Cox said. “I would also say, ‘Look, people, this is not the year. Even if you think you are being extremely safe, it is so easy, one spark, everything is so dry, it’s drier than you think.”

This message got to Eagle Mountain early, with the city council banning fireworks in its council meeting on Tuesday. The city’s ban included open flame fires and fireworks, with fireworks being prohibited on Independence and Pioneer days and open flame fires being prohibited until the end of August.

During the meeting, Eagle Mountain Mayor Tom Westmoreland said that the resolution to prohibit fireworks and open flame fires falls in line with the local and federal government restrictions that have been put in place on state, federal and private unincorporated lands.

“Fires can not only be dangerous but combating them can also be very costly,” Westmoreland said in the release. “We’ve seen in the recent past the damage that can unintentionally be done. The general support we’ve received from residents so far speaks to the public’s understanding of this unusual situation.”

One message that Cox wanted to remind people about was that if someone starts a fire due to fireworks, those people will be responsible for the damages and costs that come with those fires.

When asked about whether or not he would have implemented a fireworks ban if he had the authority to, Cox said that he would have.

As for next year and future restrictions for fireworks, Cox said he would not ask the Legislature to consider a ban but that he would want to see fireworks banned in areas with exceptional drought.

With the Legislature consistently discussing fireworks code, Cox considered the drought categorization to be an easy fix to the fireworks problem.

“That just seems like common sense, but I don’t know,” Cox said.

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