Man whose home burned spends Fourth of July calling attention to firework dangers

A man whose home burned after a stray spark from fireworks spent Wednesday, July 4, 2018 calling attention to firework dangers. (Photo: Cristina Flores / KUTV)

(KUTV) — Dave Schoeneck said he’d rather spend July 4th eating hot dogs and drinking beer but chose to spend the day holding protest signs in front of Memorial Mountain View Cemetery.

He did so to call attention to the dangers of aerial fireworks, which are legal in Utah.

Last year, a firework cause a big blaze that burned his house and caused extensive damage and left him and his family living in a hotel for four months.

“Utah’s fireworks laws are irresponsible,” he said.

Schoeneck also chose the cemetery for his small protest because he feels the cemetery should admit liability and pay for his out-of-pocket costs for repairs after the fire. He said he’s $ 20,000 to $30,000 in credit card debt after insurance coverage.

The back side of the large cemetery property, is designated wildland and is loaded with fire fuels like grasses and oak and sage brush – according to a report issued by Unified Fire Department on May of 2018.

The fire that burned Schoeneck’s house last year, started on one property, skipped across other properties before hitting the cemetery property which is adjacent to Schoeneck’s house.

Schoeneck feels the cemetery’s parent company, Security National Financial Corporation (SNFC) didn’t do enough clearing brush for years before the fire and that’s what led the fire to erupt and go over into his property.

“We think it is unfair to pay for something we aren’t responsible for,” said Adam Quist, VP of SNFC.

Quist disagrees with Schoeneck saying SNFC has always followed fire department and city recommendations on fire mitigation.

“We’ve always gone above and beyond what we have been asked to do,” he said.

Unified Fire Authority, in the May 2018 assessment of fire danger on the property, said the total SNFC property is 55 acres.

SNFC says only 20 to 25 acres is undeveloped and five to seven acres burned in last year's fire.

Because the large-acre property is considered “Wildland Urban Interface” it is not subject to codes or laws that would force other property owners to clear flammable brush from their properties.

Mike Watson, Assistant Chief at Unified Fire Authority, confirms what Quist said: The cemetery company has always tried to mitigate fires by clearing brush on the property.

After the fire, Unified Fire Authority's evaluation of fire risk on the cemetery property, the agency recommended the property owner increase the level of mowing and vegetation clearing to ensure more fire safety.

In a letter dated July 2, 2018, Watson and the assistant manager of Cottonwood Heights commended the cemetery’s efforts to follow the new recommendations.

Schoeneck feels the cemetery only stepped up its fuel management efforts because his house burned and he’s complained ever since.

“They just want me to go away,” he said.

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