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Box Elder County has yet to see its first big wildfire of the year, and officials are hoping to keep it that way as the annual fireworks season draws near.

Cool and occasionally wet weather has kept fire danger relatively low so far this year, but with Tuesday’s solstice marking the official beginning of summer, conditions are likely to get more volatile as high heat and low humidity settle in for the season.

Tremonton officials sought to get out ahead of the issue early this year, passing the city’s usual ordinance restricting the use of fireworks at the city council’s May 17 meeting — a full month earlier than usual, even though Utah residents can only light fireworks legally during certain times in July and around New Year’s Eve.

The Tremonton ordinance bans the lighting of fireworks within 100 feet of “sensitive areas,” including the Malad River Bottoms and the Radio Hill area.

At the May 17 meeting, some council members said they would prefer a citywide ban, but state law doesn’t allow it.

Box Elder County implemented a blanket ban on fireworks in unincorporated areas of the county last summer and may do so again this year, but Tremonton Fire Chief Robert LaCroix said cities currently don’t have that option.

“You can restrict certain high-risk areas, but you can’t do the whole city,” LaCroix said. “You can’t supersede state code.”

He said fire chiefs across the state banded together this year in an attempt to get the state legislature to change the law, but their efforts were rebuffed.

LaCroix moved to Tremonton late in 2020 from California, where he said fireworks restrictions are much tighter. Last year was his first Fourth of July in Utah, and he said it was literally an eye-opening experience for him.

“I was up for 36 hours straight. I felt like I was in bomb territory,” he said. “In California, you light a match and everybody’s tackling you.”

He said the Tremonton Fire Department was fully staffed during July 3-5 last year, and plans to do the same this year in case any fireworks-related problems should arise.

Sales of legal fireworks are allowed under Utah law to begin Friday in advance of the Independence Day and Pioneer Day holidays. Private citizens in non-restricted areas can light them from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 2, 3 and 5, and from 11 a.m. until midnight on July 4. It’s also allowed during the same hours on July 22, 23 and 25, and until midnight on July 24.

The only other time residents can legally light fireworks in Utah is from 11 a.m. Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. on Jan. 1; and during the same hours on Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 in celebration of Chinese New Year.

Fireworks can be sold in the state from June 24 to July 25; Dec. 29-31; and the two days before and on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Last Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management became the first government entity to implement broader fire restrictions, issuing seasonal rules for BLM-managed lands in 12 Utah counties, including Box Elder.

The restrictions on BLM lands ban the use of steel-component ammunition and targets, sky lanters or similar devices, and the operation of off-highway vehicles that aren’t equipped with spark arrestors.

The rain and cool weather that has delayed wildfire season in northern Utah so far is likely to become a double-edged sword as the summer progresses, BLM West Desert District Manager Michael Gates said in a press release.

“Northwestern and central Utah received significant rain this spring resulting in an increase in grass crop compared to last year,” Gates said. “As we move into the hot summer months, we can expect the grass to dry out and result in a rapid increase in fire danger. We ask that all visitors to public lands are diligent in preventing wildfires.”

More restrictions are likely to follow in the coming days and weeks at the state and federal levels, especially those related to campfires.

In addition to tracking wildfires as they occur, the Utah state fire information website maintains a list of fire restrictions in place. This information and more can be found at utahfireinfo.gov

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