Tooele County citizens’ patriotism was on grand display over the long holiday weekend with Fourth of July festivities that celebrated our nation’s 243rd birthday.
Both Tooele and Grantsville cities, and other communities across the county, hosted a variety of events to venerate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and our break from King George III and England. There were breakfasts, concerts and rodeos, activities at the parks, and of course, spirited parades down Main Streets. And the day ended with an aerial fireworks display at Deseret Peak Complex that lit up the night sky over Tooele Valley.
To organize and hold all of those events is a massive undertaking. Everyone who played a role in making them possible for citizens’ and visitors’ enjoyment deserve community thanks for a job well done. Fourth of July celebrations in the county remain vibrant and engaging, as evidenced by the thousands who attend.
And thankfully, despite fireworks sales to the public, and area canyons and the West Desert filled with recreationists, the county wasn’t hit hard by a big wildfire over the weekend. But the weekend didn’t pass by without a strong reminder that it doesn’t take much for a wildfire to ignite and cause both harm and inconvenience.
As reported on today’s front page, a wildfire erupted along Intestate 80 late Sunday afternoon that resulted in the closing of I-80’s eastbound lanes for nearly two hours. For yet another summer, a wildfire along I-80 between Lake Point and Saltair has stopped and inconvenienced thousands of motorists.
According to Tooele County Fire Warden Daniel Walton, the fire burned more than 15 acres and damaged nearby railroad equipment. The fire’s cause is under investigation. Walton also said there were a total of five wildfires in the county over the weekend, yet none were caused by fireworks.
At first glance such is encouraging news. But three concerns still remain: Fireworks usage by the public will resume for Pioneer Day on July 24, and our valleys, mountains and desert teem with a thick crop of spring vegetation that is drying out. Lastly, humans are the number one cause of wildland fires in the U.S., according to the National Park Service, and more than half of the wildfires started in Utah last year were human caused, according to the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
In our own backyard, last July’s Middle Canyon fire was caused by human hands, investigators say.
All of which inspires another clarion call for citizens and visitors to be extra vigilant about the hazards of fire and fireworks. Be aware of fire restrictions and areas where fireworks are prohibited and when fireworks are allowed (see related front-page story). Citizens and visitors are also reminded that sparks from machinery and recreational vehicles can be like a lit match — with dire results.
An interactive, color-coded map of fireworks restrictions in the county is available at tooelecountysheriff.org/firewarden.htm. Citizens and visitors are also reminded that according to state law, anyone who uses fireworks and causes or spreads a fire negligently, recklessly or intentionally, are liable for the cost of fire suppression and damages.