Preventing fires
Responsibility rests on Utahns
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There are things we have a right to do that we simply should not do when the time isn't right. Cyclists have a right to take up an entire lane of an uphill road. Obese people have a right to wear tube tops.

And Utahns have a right to shoot their guns at targets in the middle of a tinder-dry field of grass on a 100-degree, windy day, or launch fireworks in a neighborhood regardless of the fire danger. But smart Utahns won't.

Utah and federal officials have banned fireworks on all public and private, unincorporated lands in the Beehive State and restricted campfires to established campgrounds. A number of cities have banned or restricted private fireworks. Still, those selling the devices are doing a brisk business.

A state law, passed by a gun-loving Legislature, prevents any state agency from limiting the use of firearms, which have already caused at least 20 wildfires so far, including one that threatened homes in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain and forced thousands to evacuate. Gov. Gary Herbert has no plan to limit target shooting to approved, supervised, ideally indoor ranges.

So everyone who legally owns a gun has the right to endanger the lives and property of their neighbors. We hope they will act responsibly, but the evidence of human carelessness is growing.

Four hundred wildfires have burned in Utah so far, with three months of fire season ahead of us, and 380 of those were caused by people. Hundreds of firefighters are risking their lives, trying to keep the flames from devouring homes and killing and injuring residents. One person has died. The costs of fighting the fires will be many millions of dollars.

The Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County has burned 25 to 30 homes and cabins, prompted evacuations of 1,000 to 2,000 people and killed 215 sheep and 11 horses. Other destructive fires have been contained in Washington and Utah counties, while blazes in Duchesne and Millard counties continue to burn. All five major fires in the state are suspected to be human-caused.

And it isn't even July.

Red-flag warnings citing low humidity, raging southwest winds and triple-digit temperatures are in effect for most of the state, and the National Weather Service said Tuesday that Utah is "capable of explosive fire danger." That is likely to remain the case for months to come.

It's up to individuals to use their heads and do their best to prevent more wildfires.

Please.