Last year, il­le­gal fire­works sparked 65 fires in Den­ver, a huge one-year in­crease.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Libby Rainey

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.

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