From restrictions to an all-out ban, more Utah lawmakers pledge bills on fireworks

SALT LAKE CITY -- Three bills are being drafted in the Utah State Legislature to deal with personal fireworks, ranging from new restrictions to a statewide ban.

The bills are being run in response to a flurry of calls and emails from constituents following some fireworks-fueled fires around the Fourth of July.

"I’m certain I’m not the only representative that during the month of July is just bombarded with concerns about fireworks," said Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights.

In Rep. Poulson's district, a home was torched in a fire linked to fireworks. She said she is looking at giving cities more power to set bans and restrictions, but is not ruling out a statewide ban on personal fireworks.

Cottonwood Heights Police said the illegal use of an aerial firework led to this grass fire on Independence Day, 2017. (FOX 13 file image)

"I’m not taking that off the table. I’m pragmatic enough to know our legislature and I would definitely consider that but it’s got to be something that’s passable," she told FOX 13.

House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, threatened a ban after fires in his Sugar House district. On Monday, he said he would abandon his legislation to let Rep. Poulson's bill move forward.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, said she was also looking at the issue. Her legislation would likely restrict the number of days personal fireworks can be set off.

"I'm looking at shortening the days," she said Monday. "Maybe ending the time after the holidays?"

Sen. Iwamoto said "98 percent" of her district is in favor of a ban, but she questioned if it would be practical. She said she intended to meet with firefighters, municipal leaders and other stakeholders before releasing the draft language of her bill.

July 4 field fire sparked by fireworks in Cottonwood Heights. (FOX 13 file image)

When aerial fireworks were approved by the Utah State Legislature in 2011, fireworks could be set off the entire month of July. After complaints, it was scaled back to three days before and three days after the Pioneer Day and Independence Day holidays.

The sponsor of that original legislation, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, told FOX 13 he intended to run legislation to address it again.

"I think we need to re-look at the current law and see what’s working and what isn’t," he said in an interview Monday.

Rep. Dunnigan said he was also meeting with stakeholders (and had spoken with Sen. Iwamoto). He wasn't sure if an all-out ban would be effective, noting it might drive people to Wyoming to purchase illegal fireworks. But he also said perhaps the days should be shortened for lighting of fireworks.

"I’ve received a lot of emails from people who say, 'We want to celebrate the birth of our country, the founding of our state. We like fireworks, don’t do anything with the current law,'" he said. "We’ve got to balance it."