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Dry, hot summer weather conditions compound fire dangers

Fireworks sales person Tesla Marakis of Price shows some of the newest items availible for sale this year in Price. Fire chief Paul Bedont is cautioning residents to excercise extreme caution over the coming holiday.

By C.J. MCMANUS
Sun Advocate community editor

As sparklers and flaming tank wars dance in the minds of Carbon County youth, parents should prepare for the hazards that can accompany Independence Day.

According to Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont, the rapid rate at which the county is drying out could lead to disaster with one instance of improper or unlawful use of the explosive devices.

"The improper use of fireworks can ignite a blaze which can destroy homes and take lives, not to mention tying up fire crews," said Bedont.

On Independence Day in a typical year, the chief reports that the incinerary devices cause more outdoor fires in the United States than all other causes of outdoor fire combined.

In 2003, there was an estimated $58 million in damage and five deaths associated with fireworks in the United States.

In 2004, an estimated 18,900 fireworks caused approximately 21.8 million in property loss alone.

"Open areas, homes and even automobiles can become engulfed in flames because of fireworks,"' cautioned the chief.

Additionally, the chief would like to inform residents that fire conditions are at extremely dangerous levels, therefore the utmost caution should be used when discharging fireworks.

"Those residents who choose to purchase illegal fireworks could find themselves receiving a costly citation," said Bedont. "Every year fire departments respond to reports of illegal fireworks landing on top of homes. Fortunately, there has been no serious damage to the homes in the last few years but the risk to homes and residents is unwarranted.

State statute specifies that it is illegal to bring dangerous class C fireworks into Utah without the proper permits.

In the past few years, the chief has witnessed an increasing amount of illegal fireworks coming into the area and has made clear the intent to not overlook any infractions during the July 4th and July 24th holidays.

"Those who willfully neglect the safety of themselves and their neighbors by discharging illegal fireworks will be cited for a class B misdemeanor," said Bedont.

In Utah, approved class C common fireworks can be legally discharged three days before, on the day of and three days after July 4, July 24, Jan. 1 and Chinese New Year.

Fireworks can be legally sold on June 19 and before July 26, after Dec. 19 and before Jan. 3 and 15 days before and on Chinese New Year.

Class C fireworks that are available for purchase have several characteristics in common. The devices:

•Do not explode or leave the ground.

•Have sparks that reach a maximum height of 15 feet.

•Are legally sold in Utah.

Unapproved fireworks that are illegal in Utah and considered dangerous are only permitted for use by individuals with a license to display and discharge the devices.

According to Bedont, dangerous class C explosives share the following characteristics :

•Firecrackers such as cherry bombs or other similar explosives.

•Skyrockets or bottle rockets which use combustible materials and rise more than 15 feet into the air.

•Aerial fireworks which propel comets, shells, salutes, flash shells or similar devices more than 15 feet into the air.

•Chasers, whistlers or devices that dart or travel more than 10 feet laterally on a smooth surface or exceed 15 feet in height when discharged.

•The devices are generally purchased at locations outside of Utah and illegally transported into the state.

"Anyone discharging fireworks, whether legal or not, can also be held liable for any damages which occur as a result of their discharge of fireworks," pointed out Bedont.

According to the chief, the best way to enjoy the holidays is to take proper safety precautions and use common sense by complying with the law.

Bedont recommended attending public displays staged by professionals who are licensed and know how to handle explosive fireworks.




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