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Salt Lake City issues fireworks ban amid historic drought

June 23, 2021 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has issued a fireworks ban as drought conditions worsen throughout the state.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Tuesday that the ban covers fireworks, including smoke bombs and sparklers. Mendenhall also issued an open burning ban that prohibits people from starting any fires outside.

The fireworks ban comes as Utah experiences its worst drought in decades. About 90% of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories.

“Our foothills, our open spaces, and even our yards and park strips are dry and could be ignited by a single spark,” Mendenhall, a Democrat, said in a statement. “These conditions present a very real, immediate threat of fire.”

Fireworks are banned on all state and unincorporated business lands, but Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has said he does not have the legal authority to enact a statewide ban.

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It is unclear if state law allows cities to outright ban fireworks, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Public safety code prevents local governments from prohibiting explosives around the July Fourth and Pioneer Day holidays, except “in certain areas with hazardous environmental conditions.” Pioneer Day is a holiday only celebrated in Utah every July 24 — marking the date when pioneers discovered the Salt Lake Valley.

Republican legislative leaders have avoided taking action to ban fireworks statewide and instead have encouraged local governments to implement their own restrictions.

“We have taken steps to empower local officials rather than impose a statewide fireworks ban,” House Speaker Brad Wilson said in a statement Monday. “I do not believe it is necessary for the legislature to hold a special session at this time.”