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MAYOR SILVESTRINI’S OPEN LETTER TO THE UTAH LEGISLATURE ABOUT FIREWORKS

On Tuesday, the 4th of July, the professional fireworks show at Sugarhouse Park started several grass fires along Interstate 80.  — Photo by SLC Fire

MILLCREEK, UT.  The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued an urgent RED FLAG WARNING through Saturday night for the Salt Lake Valley, including Millcreek. According to the NWS, that means that “critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or are imminent.”

This week, dozens of residents have contacted our city representatives to express their concern about fireworks-caused fires, and insisted that the city do something. Contrary to recent reports from the Governor’s office, this is not a local control issue. The Utah Legislature has tied our hands. The most any Utah city can do is prohibit fireworks in areas specifically identified by the Unified Fire Authority as hazardous.

Mayor Silvestrini, together with Senator Jani Iwamoto, Representative Patrice Arent, and some neighboring mayors, have begun the process of determining how to regain local control over fireworks. In the meantime, yesterday, our mayor wrote to the leaders of the Utah Legislature to express our concerns. They have not yet had a chance to respond, but we wanted to share this communication with you:

From: Mayor Jeff Silvestrini <jsilvestrini@millcreek.utah.gov>
Date: July 6, 2017 at 3:40 PM MDT
To: Utah Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser <wniederhauser@le.utah.gov>, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes <greghughes@le.utah.gov>
Subject: Fireworks legislation

Dear President Niederhauser and Speaker Hughes:

I have heard from other mayors that I am not alone in getting deluged with constituent complaints about fireworks, the size of legal, aerial rockets available in our stores, the number of days they are permitted, the fact people do not honor the permitted hours of use and the problems they present with the extreme fire danger in our cities this year.  It is frustrating to have to let my constituents know that our state legislature has effectively preempted local control on this issue pursuant to Utah Code Section 53-7-225(3), in spite of our better familiarity with our local conditions, including weather, terrain and specific fire risks.  I have asked the fire marshal to designate the obvious areas in Millcreek, but it is nearly impossible to identify and describe every patch of flammable ground in my city and we simply lack the resources to do more, including trying to describe every creek bed or swale in an ordinance within the limitations of Utah Code section 15A-5-202.5(1)(b).

In hot dry weather like we are experiencing this summer, particularly given the growth of fuels from our wet spring, the fire dangers from fireworks are severe throughout my city.  Our fire department has battled dozens of blazes ignited by fireworks, some as simple as grass or brush fires and others involving structures. The risk of a true conflagration in Millcreek’s urban interface with Grandeur Peak and Mount Olympus keeps me awake at night, sniffing for any hint of smoke.  Please restore local control of this issue by amending state law to permit us to restrict the days and places of lawful use to accommodate weather conditions and risk.  My constituents do not understand why our city is so limited by the legislature from exercising local control over this public safety issue, which directly affects our well-being, our fire-fighting resources and the property of our residents.  My primary concern here is fire safety.  I will not trouble you for now with my constituents’ concerns for our air quality and the public peace at night during nearly the entire month of July. Please help us with this.

Thank you for all you do for us- Jeff Silvestrini, mayor of Millcreek

The Unified Fire Authority this week updated its map to include new fireworks-restricted areas within Millcreek.

In addition, the City Council will be considering an ordinance at its meeting this coming Monday (7/10/17) to add more fireworks-restricted areas that the UFA has identified. This is the limits of what we can do under state law.

We will continue to share this discussion in this newsletter and on the website.
In the meantime, please use common sense out there.

 

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