OGDEN — Citing an increase in dangerous conditions this year, Ogden City has imposed fire restrictions — more than a month earlier than the regulations went into effect in 2019.
The city has banned the use of 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; 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.
Ogden Fire Chief Mike Mathieu said the ban is in effect now and, unless environmental conditions change significantly, won’t be lifted until Sept. 20. Mathieu said an abnormally dry spring has created a significant hazard to property and public safety in the event of a fire in mountainous, brush or dry grass covered areas in the city.
“Last year, we didn’t (institute restrictions) until after July 4,” Mathieu said. “It was actually just before July 24, because we had such a wet spring and early summer. This year, it’s totally opposite.”
Data from the National Weather Service shows that precipitation along the Wasatch Front was well below normal for March, April and May. The long-range forecast for the Ogden area indicates temperatures averaging in the upper 90s for the much of the remainder of June and most of July, with little scattered rain from thunderstorms.
Mathieu said low moisture content has already caused problems for the fire department, as evidenced by a recent wildfire on Ogden’s east bench, just north of 12 Street. The blaze started on May 31 and grew to about 40 acres before a team of nearly 50 firefighters extinguished it.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Utah West Desert District has also issued a fire prevention order that applies to all BLM-managed lands in Box Elder, Cache, Morgan, Rich and Weber counties. The order prohibits the use of steel-core, steel-jacketed or steel-tipped ammunition from June 15 through September 30. Year-round restrictions include prohibition of fireworks, exploding targets, tracer and incendiary ammunition, sky lanterns or similar devices, and operating off-highway vehicles without spark arresters.
“Northwestern Utah has experienced one of the driest springs on record — we are seeing relative humidity levels and conditions similar to mid-July,” Erik Valdez, Utah West Desert District fire management specialist, said in a statement. “Thick mats of unburnt fuel from last year coupled with this year’s fuels and vegetation drying faster than normal has significantly increased the risk of accidental wildfires.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires across the United States in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires and 17,100 fires outdoors. Those blazes caused five deaths, 46 civilian injuries and $105 million in direct property damage. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 fireworks related injuries in 2018.
Utah law allows fireworks between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 2-5 and July 23-25. On July 4 and 24, the legal hours are extended to midnight.