Just before midnight Saturday night, an individual allegedly launched consumer-grade fireworks illegally. Unfortunately, the grass was already dry, and when embers landed on the ground, the grass caught on fire. Making matters worse, winds fed the conflagration and spread it further.
“Due to the dry grasses and a wind event that was happening at that time, we just had rapid fire,” said Lehi City Fire Chief Jeremy Craft.
By 1:00 a.m. local time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Time) Sunday morning, the fire had spread to 100-200 acres. By 7:30 a.m. Sunday, it had spread to over 1,000 acres.
Officials then issued evacuation orders, using “reverse 911” (a system by which users receive automated calls from a central dispatching clearinghouse) and social media. At least 40 people were ordered out of their homes, according to a companion KUTV report, and the Red Cross set up a shelter at a nearby school.
Meanwhile, crews have dispatched heavy equipment to clear a perimeter around the fire. Officials have also requested air support.
As of this writing, the property damage appears to have been limited to a single vinyl fence being destroyed. No homes are believed to be in danger from the fire.
As KSL-TV reported, officials are reminding area residents who might be keen to launch backyard fireworks that it is illegal to launch them right now, and indeed, they can only launch them around the Independence Day holiday, between July 2-5.
“Have your fun, don’t cause harm to others,” Craft said.
The individual who allegedly launched the fireworks that started the Lehi wildfire is cooperating with authorities, police said.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the summer of 2020 has seen increases in both the number of calls to police about people illegally setting off fireworks and in sales of consumer fireworks. With municipal fireworks displays largely being off the table due to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are turning to the consumer-grade stuff and not waiting until the 4th of July to set them off.
Complicating matters is the fact that Americans are governed by a patchwork of sometimes contradictory state and local ordinances when it comes to buying and launching backyard pyrotechnics. In some states, such as Missouri, it’s basically “anything goes.” In others, such as Massachusetts, effectively all consumer-grade fireworks are illegal.
Of course, for millions of Americans, though they might live in a jurisdiction where buying fireworks is illegal, it’s a short drive to a border state where they’re legal to buy some and bring them home.
Meanwhile, in Utah, other wildfires are also raging, but those appear to have been started by lightning, not fireworks.