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Cox, mayors throw cold water on personal fireworks for 4th

By Connor Richards special To The Standard-Examiner - | Jun 30, 2021
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Brandon Nixon, of Provo, checks out a box of fireworks at the Duncan's Fireworks tent in Springville on Monday, June 29, 2020.

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Gov. Spencer Cox takes questions at his weekly news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 20, 2021.

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Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at his weekly news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 20, 2021.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has a request for Utah residents heading into the 4th of July weekend: Put your fireworks away.

The governor made his request during a press conference on Wednesday, where he stood alongside more than 30 Utah city mayors, council members and other local leaders.

At the press conference, which was held in Salt Lake City, Cox urged “all of you to exercise extreme caution during the July holidays. Specifically, please, please, please celebrate without personal fireworks.”

Cox’s plea for residents to celebrate the July holidays responsibly comes as nearly the entire state faces “extreme” drought conditions and 65% of the state experiences “exceptional” drought, according to Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Petersen, posing significant wildfire danger.

“Because of the extreme drought affecting our entire state, the conditions, as we’ve mentioned many times, for catastrophic wildfires are very high,” the governor said.

There have been 457 wildfires reported so far this year, according to Cox, who called the number “staggering” and said the state is on track to outpace 2020.

Of those wildfires, 368 of them, about 81%, have been human-caused, and 23,000 of the 58,000 acres burned have been from human-caused wildfires.

Cox also noted that there were 65 wildfires last year that were started by fireworks.

The governor addressed those who have called on him to “just ban fireworks statewide,” noting that “as governor, my hands are tied on that one.”

“As I’ve said before, if I could issue a ban on personal fireworks, I would,” he said. “But state law does not allow me to do that. So I’m asking you, I’m imploring you, each of you, to do the right thing. And the right thing this year is to put your personal fireworks away.”

Rather than lighting off personal fireworks, the governor and other officials urged residents to watch the professional fireworks shows that many cities are putting on this year, which he called a “much safer option” and “a great way to bring us together as neighborhoods, as communities, to see friends and neighbors and celebrate the holidays together.”

“Please consider skipping all personal fireworks this year, and let’s celebrate these holidays safely and with respect and regard to this amazing environment that we live in and to the environment we’re currently working in,” said Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, who is president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Petersen, the Unified Fire Authority chief, talked about the penalties for lighting off fireworks in restricted areas, which he said begin with a $1,000 fine.

“Then, you’re subject to the damages and the control costs that are potentially there,” he said. “That’s the critical part. That’s the intent.”

Also on Wednesday, Cox participated in a conference call with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss ways to mediate wildfire dangers in the American West. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the governors of other Western states also took part in the call.

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