FIRE DANGER FEARS PROMPT FIREWORKS CANCELLATIONS
Last year, illegal fireworks sparked 65 fires in Denver, a huge one-year increase.
Fourth of July celebrations for some Colorado cities will lack a certain sparkle this year. With high heat, heavy winds and dry weather, city officials in Aspen, Durango and Steamboat Springs have decided to forgo fireworks this year in favor of fire safety.
“The community has been saying that other cities should be cancelling their shows too,” said Scot Davis, the Durango Fire Department’s public information officer. “A spark right now can start a big fire.”
The cancellation struck a particular chord in Durango, where a house fire last week spread quickly into a blaze that destroyed 400 acres. When Davis announced the city’s decision at a town hall meeting last week, he said the audience cheered.
Steamboat Springs similarly canceled the city’s fireworks display when a fire broke out Saturday west of the city. Aspen also canceled its fireworks display due to high fire risk, said city fire marshal Parker Lathrop.
The relative safety of a fireworks show depends, in part, on the area from where they are launched. Shooting over a lake, for example, is a low-fire risk even in extremely dry weather, said Mel Stewart, Steamboat’s fire chief.
Vail decided the fireworks will go on because the city launches its display from the site where the half-pipe sits during the winter, so the area experienced heavy snowfall. It remains green and even has a few patches of snow, said Mark Novak, the city’s fire chief. The city will, however, continue to assess safety up until the celebration, and still could cancel the show if conditions change.
Firefighters also are concerned about illegal fireworks. Last year, Denver firefighters responded to 35 fires on the holiday, compared to 16 in the previous year, said Greg Pixley, a Denver Fire Department captain.
Fires during the 2016 holiday weekend more than doubled compared to 2015, jumping from 31 to 65 fires, Pixley said. That jump has the department on high alert this year, Pixley said.
Fireworks-related fires have already ignited this year. A small brush fire broke out in Centennial after someone shot fireworks from an apartment building’s balcony Monday morning, said Eric Hurst, public information officer for the South Metro Fire Department.