Western cities get creative after mega-drought leads some to cancel fireworks

“Specific areas that are particularly vulnerable range from Oregon to Mexico. All of California is vulnerable,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief John Heggie said, given the ongoing drought and hot temperatures.

Fire patrols will be in effect to seize illegal fireworks, and there will be zero tolerance, Heggie added.

A Colorado town will continue its show

While some areas are canceling their shows, one town in Colorado is choosing to stay true to tradition.

Louisville, Colorado, a town northwest of Denver, hopes to continue its fireworks display in an effort to prevent wildfires. The city’s website noted that it hoped to “reduce the number of illegal private shows” with their display, which is actively monitored by firefighters.
Six months ago, the Marshall Fire devastated parts of Boulder County, including Louisville. Burning more than 6,000 acres, the fire reached the golf course where the city will host its fireworks show on Monday.

“We actually scaled back the fireworks this year to focus on the community experience leading up to the fireworks,” the City of Louisville website said. “The intention of the celebration is to be inclusive and welcoming to the entire community as we heal together from the Marshall Fire.”

On the south side of Denver, another city has chosen to cancel its fireworks show due to the current wildfire danger. Castle Rock, Colorado has been under Level 1 fire restrictions since April. Castle Rock Fire Chief Norris Croom said the sight was not worth the risk.

“We didn’t want to jeopardize the safety of our community with errant fireworks or falling debris,” Croom said.

More than half of Colorado experiences drought, making the environment highly susceptible to wildfires. Only licensed professional fireworks are permitted in the state, and all other fireworks are considered illegal.

California authorities warn of the dangers of fireworks

Another city affected by recent wildfires is choosing to do something radically different.

North Lake Tahoe, which went through the Caldor Fire in 2021, will skip the fireworks in favor of a drone light display.
“The decision was made taking into account the fire and environmental risks posed by a pyrotechnic firework display, modifying a long-standing tradition with an innovative new approach,” a statement from the city said.

However, a traditional fireworks display will continue as scheduled in South Lake Tahoe, an area evacuated in August because of the Caldor Fire.

Claremont, California, an far eastern suburb of Los Angeles, is replacing its fireworks with a free community concert. The city explained in a press release that water restrictions due to the ongoing drought played a significant role in its decision to cancel.
A warning sign is displayed at Lake Castaic Reservoir in Los Angeles County May 3, 2022. A water shortage emergency has been declared in Southern California with water restrictions starting June 1 for 6 million people under drought conditions.

“Preparation for the fireworks requires significant watering in the days leading up to the show, representing approximately 650,000 gallons of water,” the press release reads.

With a hot and dry holiday weekend ahead, California officials are reminding residents of the state’s vulnerability to wildfires, given the ongoing drought.

“The reality is that every year we have wildfires started by legal and illegal fireworks,” Heggie acknowledged.

Heggie’s biggest concern is small explosives like bottle rockets and Roman candles, and people who use “safe and healthy” fireworks in areas where they are illegal.

He warned: “Please understand that your good intentions can have devastating effects.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company also asks customers to “put safety first” and follow local rules and regulations regarding fireworks.

New Mexico governor signs executive order to ban fireworks

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order in late April urging counties, cities and local governments to consider banning certain fireworks due to “severe drought and fire conditions.” throughout the state.
And as the largest wildfire in New Mexico history continues to burn, cities like Albuquerque are hoping to prevent further devastation.
Trees scorched by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire during exceptional drought conditions in the area June 2, 2022 near Mora, New Mexico.
“Albuquerque has a unique urban interface with areas of open space that are under constant fire threat,” noted the city’s fireworks ordinance. “These fires would endanger the lives of those who live nearby and many species of wildlife.”

The city banned fireworks in open spaces, but allowed purchased fireworks from retail stores and stands within city limits.

“Read the warning label. If it says ‘WARNING’, it’s illegal. If it reads ‘CAUTION’, it’s legal.” fireworks ordinance reads.

Albuquerque has already started patrolling the entire city ahead of the holidays. The city warns “those who are caught will be cited and will have a mandatory appearance in court”.

Albuquerque will continue its free Freedom Fourth show on July 4, which includes professional fireworks.

Laser lights instead of fireworks

Replacing its traditional fireworks display, Salt Lake City, Utah, hosts a Laser Light Night twice in July.

Lynze Twede, events manager for Salt Lake City Public Lands, said the city council voted to shift funding for a fireworks show to an “alternative event” earlier this year.

“[The city council] wanted to make a change and try to be an example to improve our air quality and not contribute to the already high fire danger,” Twede stressed.

Salt Lake City hopes to captivate its audience and entertain people of all ages with the transition to a laser light display held July 2 and 23.

“People can still come and expect to see an awesome sight. But with this innovative new way, we’re just lighting up our skies a little differently this year,” Twede added.

Much of western Utah, including Salt Lake City, is under a red flag warning Saturday through Monday “for wind and low relative humidity,” according to the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City. .

Strong southerly winds of 20 to 30 mph are forecast with wind gusts up to 45 mph possible Sunday and Monday afternoon and evening. Winds are expected to decrease overnight.

And across Arizona, the pipeline fire recently forced hundreds of Flagstaffs residents to evacuate. The fire is largely contained, but the risk of burning Flagstaff remains.
To continue its city’s annual celebration, Flagstaff hopes to host a safe event using a new laser light show in its historic downtown.

“Switching from traditional fireworks to a laser light show was the responsible action to take due to the extreme fire hazard with the dry and hot conditions in Northland,” said Flagstaff City Manager Greg Clifton. “Having a safe celebration and being aware of the fire is extremely important.”

The United States Forest Service has warned that burning restrictions can vary from place to place, so it’s important to review local burning bans.
The Arizona-New Mexico border can expect scattered thunderstorms throughout the holiday weekend due to the southwest monsoon, which has slightly improved drought conditions in both states. , but the summer outlook across the West continues to be hot and dry.

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