Fireworks in Sweetwater County: What You Need To Know

fireworks-1109345_640The Fourth of July is full of celebration and fun, but for local fire authorities it can often be a day filled with fire and concern.

Where Can I Use Fireworks?

While fireworks are allowed in Sweetwater County, they are not allowed within the city limits of Rock Springs and Green River. Green River Fire Department Interim Chief Mike Liberty said both cities have ordinances against using fireworks, and violators can be cited and charged for any damage caused.

Laws also prohibit the use of fireworks on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management as well as National Forests. Flaming Gorge Reservoir, for example, is surrounded by Forest Service land, and fireworks can’t be used on the shores.

Kevin Cahill, Assistant Fire Management Officer at the BLM, says such laws are meant to protect lands enjoyed by so many.

“We want the public to enjoy the public lands and take advantage of the public lands here in Wyoming, but we want them to enjoy them responsibly and safely,” said Cahill.

With restrictions on fireworks, the only place fireworks are legally allowed is on private property—and only with the land owner’s permission.

Scott Kitchner, Sweetwater County Fire District #1 Chief, said anyone using fireworks on private land should be very cautious and aware of land boundaries.

“You may be able to do it on private property, but BLM land could be ten or fifteen feet away from where you’re shooting fireworks off, and you will be held responsible for something that does go off on that property,” said Kitchner.

Kitchner said land boundaries can often cause headaches for residents along with fire authorities.

“With our Fire District, we are kind of put in a hard predicament because we are in the county, and it is allowed in the county—fireworks are. But also, we have a lot of checkerboard. We have a lot of BLM property in our Fire District where it’s not allowed. So we’re fighting both things there, and there’s a lot of private land in our district also,” added Kitchner.

Anyone with questions about land boundaries can contact the BLM or visit the BLM office for a land status map.

Can I Use Fireworks On White Mountain?

Sweetwater County Fire Warden Mike Bournazian noted that many people go to White Mountain to set off fireworks.

Bournazian said White Mountain, like much of the county, consists of a “checker board of ownership” between private land and BLM managed land.

“Those folks that are up on White Mountain need to know where they are. If they are on BLM property, on White Mountain or adjacent to White Mountain, lighting fireworks off, they are in violation of the law, and they can and will be held responsible and accountable,” said Bournazian.

He noted that those using fireworks on White Mountain must gain permission from the landowner before setting off fireworks.

With multiple fires on White Mountain last year, Kitchner noted that the irresponsible use of fireworks is endangering the wellbeing of firefighters.

“You needlessly put our firefighters in danger when you’re out there setting those fires like that, whether it’s purposefully or accidentally,” said Kitchner “It’s night. You can’t see well. You’re putting them in very steep terrain. The potential to get somebody hurt is ten times worse than any other day.”

What If I Start A Fire?

So, what should you do if a fire does break out? The most important thing to do is report the fire. While this seems like common sense, many people choose to leave the scene of a fire rather than call it in.

“A lot of times people will shoot fireworks off and a fire will happen and they’ll just take off, and it may take a little bit before somebody finally sees the smoke to report it. We’ve had that happen several times,” said Kitchner. “Report it. Take responsibility for your actions.”

It’s important to take note of where you are located before setting off fireworks so you can provide dispatch with an accurate location if a fire does occur.

“We’ve gone in the past where we get sent to one area and the fire is four, five, or six miles in a different direction. So make sure you know where you are and you can call that in properly for us to be able to get to it without any more delay because of the travel time,” said Liberty.

If a fire does start, whether it is within city limits, on private property, on BLM land, or within the National Forest, the responsible party can be charged for the costs to suppress the fire, and those costs can quickly add up.

What Is The Fire Risk?

Recent moisture has created a lot of grass this season. Bournazian says those green grasses are already beginning to dry out, which greatly increases the fire risk.

“We’ll see an increase in the fire danger as the summer continues and those grasses dry out and become more readily accessible to ignition from lightning or human-caused events. So the potential is definitely increased through the amount of grass we have out in the wild lands,” said Bournazian.

He noted that by the Fourth of July, the risk of fire could be even greater than it was last year when multiple fires broke out around the county.

What Precautions Should Be Taken?

First and foremost, fire authorities agree that the safest route is to not set off your own fireworks. Green River and Rock Springs both have community firework displays for the holiday, and that is a great way to enjoy fireworks without taking the risk of starting a fire.

For those who still choose to use fireworks, here are some tips from local fire authorities:

  • Have a fire extinguisher, shovels, and a water source nearby
  • Be prepared for the unexpected
  • Supervise children with fireworks
  • Be aware of where you are using fireworks and who owns/manages the land
  • Use a clear area void of vegetation
  • Limit fireworks to those that stay on the ground and can be more controlled
  • Know how to provide emergency personnel with the location in case of fire
  • If a fire does start, report it by calling 911

It is important to take the proper precautions when using fireworks, because multiple fires can stretch the county’s resources.

“No single agency can suppress a multitude of fires, especially on the Fourth of July, by ourselves. We all have to rely on each other,” said Bournazian. “And as those conditions start to dry and the fire danger begins to increase, we want the public to be more cognizant of the fact that the danger is high enough that they need to be very smart in their decision making process as to where they want to light those fireworks off and how they do so because it would be easy for us to be taxed. It would be easy for us to run out of resources to fight numerous fires.”

Anyone with additional questions about fireworks can contact their local or county fire department, city representatives, or the BLM.

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