Firework laws spark excitement, concern

Weber State University students have more leeway when it comes to celebrating their fourth and 24th of July holidays due to new State of Utah firework rules. The state legislature has expanded the length of time around the holidays in which fireworks can be set off, and also expanded the types of fireworks that can be used.

WSU students applauded the new rule changes, but some expressed safety concerns. The Ogden City Fire Department is monitoring the situation to see if there are going to be increased risks of accidents or fires because of the changes.

This year, the Utah State Legislature voted to change the rules regarding firework regulation in the state, allowing for previously unavailable aerial fireworks, some of which can reach 150 feet into the air. The new changes also extend the amount of time in which fireworks can be set off. Previously, they could only be lit three days before or after the 4th and the 24th. Now they can be set off any time from June 26 to July 26. The changes passed the legislature and will take effect this year.

Janelle Webb, a WSU senior, previously lived in Tahoe, Calif., where use of fireworks was banned altogether because of the risk of forest fire. She explained that the risk of fire depends upon where fireworks are set off.

“It might be a little bit safer in the city, because it’s not like there’s a ton of grass,” Webb said. “I mean, if you went up on the hillside, it probably would be a bad idea, because it could catch the whole mountain on fire if it went the wrong way.”

Ogden City Fire Marshall Mathew Schwenk expressed a similar concern, using the fireworks shows presented by WSU during the summer as an example.

“The fireworks shows that Weber State puts on are professional shows,” Schwenk said. “They’re done down on the practice field. We’re not taking the risk as far as being close to the benches and side hills, where you have the raw vegetation.”

Another WSU student, Laura Colledge, said she sees the new rule changes as having a positive effect on her firework plans, and expressed relative confidence in the amount of safety there would be.

“I think it would make it more fun,” Colledge said, “just as long as you’re responsible and careful about it. I think the increased time doesn’t risk anything.”

In terms of risk, regulation of fireworks in the State of Utah require that those setting off fireworks have at least 30 feet of clear space, and that they set fireworks off on hard, flat surfaces. However, Schwenk said he did have concerns about the length of time in which people could shoot off fireworks. He explained that the Ogden City Fire Department was going to be monitoring the number of accidents related to fireworks around the upcoming holidays to see if there was any increase in accidents.