Utah lawmaker considering statewide ban on personal fireworks

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah lawmaker tells FOX 13 he is considering running legislation to ban fireworks in the state.

"I think we ought to just talk about banning them outright. We should have that discussion and that dialogue," House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said.

Reacting to a Fourth of July where firefighters were slammed with calls about brush fires triggered by fireworks, Rep. Briscoe said he was looking at running a bill next year that would either ban them altogether or severely restrict them.

"If we’re going to keep them we should at least be banning aerials and restricting the number of days they can be used," he told FOX 13.

Rep. Briscoe, who represents the Sugar House neighborhood, said he had heard from a number of constituents who complained about the fires (including a blaze near I-80 where a city-sponsored show was being put on in a nearby park), the noise and air pollution. He also said fireworks scare pets and veterans who suffer from PTSD.

The Utah State Legislature approved aerial fireworks in 2011, then restricted when fireworks could be set off a year later after complaints. Under current Utah law, fireworks can be set off three days before and three days after the Independence Day and Pioneer Day holidays.

Rep. Briscoe argued that is still too long.

"That’s two full weeks. Isn’t it kind of crazy to be saying, 'Oh, the air temperatures are so high, the ozone effects are so bad for people, if you’re healthy don’t go out and exercise during these hours but light off fireworks for like, 14 days?" he said.

Rep. Briscoe said any legislation would still allow for the larger, professional fireworks displays put on by cities and counties.

While the topic may be popular in July when fires are burning and people are fuming, Rep. Briscoe acknowledged he may face a chilly reception if any bill is introduced in the legislature in January.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said he's a big fan of the Fourth of July. He said he would oppose efforts to ban fireworks. Speaker Hughes told FOX 13 he prefers allowing local authorities to set restrictions as they see fit.

"They know their cities. They know the areas where fires can start and can get out of hand and they have to be careful about that," he said. "You don’t need a top-down approach with the state telling cities to do that."