Dozens of communities in drought-stricken areas are scrapping public fireworks displays and cracking down on backyard pyrotechnics to reduce the risk of fires.
“From a fire standpoint and a safety standpoint, it was an easy call,” Burbank Fire Chief Tracy Pansini says. He recommended calling off fireworks at the Starlight Bowl because they’re launched from a mountainside covered with vegetation that’s “all dead.”
The record droughts around the country have nixed fireworks in a half dozen states. What will happen to 4th of July celebrations over much of the country if, as predicted in an April Science, article, we have “a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest”?
Here are some of the places canceling fireworks this year:
- Alabaster, Ala., canceled its public fireworks and Fire Chief Frank Matherson might propose at a City Council meeting Monday that all fireworks be prohibited.
“Most people will comply because they see how dry it is,” he says. Water restrictions, including a ban on watering lawns, make fireworks even more risky, he says.
- A 120-day ban on fireworks in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest took effect Tuesday, says fire management officer Mitch Gandy. The 700,000-acre forest is popular with families with their own fireworks. It’s the first ban since 1999.
“I’ve had 70 fires so far this year,” Gandy says. “Fireworks land in the leaves and set fires, which is potentially very dangerous.” The fine for possessing or igniting fireworks: $75.
- In Madison, Ala., public fireworks were canceled so firefighters can focus on possible fires from illegal but rampant private fireworks. “We’re worried about tying up the manpower because we’re afraid we’ll be busy elsewhere,” Fire Chief Ralph Cobb says.
- The July Fourth parade and festival are still on in Woodstock, but residents worried about dry conditions wrote to the city recommending that the fireworks be postponed, says city community affairs director Donna Godfrey.
- There have been a record number of fire danger warnings this year, Fire Marshal Dave Soumas says. The official fireworks always cause “little spot fires” that people don’t see, he says. “Imagine how dry it is, and maybe we can’t keep those contained.”
His advice to anyone planning fireworks: “Have adult supervision and a hose or fire extinguisher in the area.”
“Adult supervision” — if only we had some of that inside the Washington, D.C. beltway, we might solve the global warming crisis.
Have a happy and fire-free 4th!