Fourth of July fireworks shows scrapped because of drought conditions
Fire officials say there isn’t enough water to conduct shows safely
The rockets’ red glare might have to wait another year after officials announced they would not permit the large fireworks shows that traditionally punctuate Independence Day in Park City and around the Snyderville Basin.
The concern is not the coronavirus, but a lack of water and the chance for wildfire, officials said.
“This year it has been determined the drought conditions and dryness of the vegetation will disallow an opportunity to safely execute the 4th of July fireworks,” said David Thacker, Park City’s fire code official.
The city’s annual fireworks display was scheduled for the evening of July 4 to be shot from Park City Mountain Resort, capping a weekend of festivities slated to begin Friday with the traditional Main Street parade. It is the second year in a row the fireworks have been canceled, and the festivities aren’t alone among drought-caused cancellations.
“Up here in Summit County, we’re not going to issue any permits for fireworks displays,” said Mike Owens, Park City Fire District fire marshal.
The fireworks show scheduled Saturday, July 3, at the Canyons Village base area of PCMR has also been canceled, but a PCMR spokesperson said they are still planning a day of programming, including live music.
In Oakley, where fireworks traditionally accompany the city’s rodeo, an official said it would be a “game-time decision” whether to go ahead with the launch.
The rodeo is set to kick off July 1, and Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme said the city would wait until closer to that date to make a decision, indicating that conditions can change.
“It’s snowed on July 4 (in the past),” he said.
Last year, Oakley proceeded with its rodeo amid pushback from health officials who deemed it a health risk. This year, it’s the lack of water that is seen as a risk.
The drought affects fireworks shows in three ways, fire officials said: It prevents event organizers from watering the zone where fireworks shells are expected to fall, a standard safety precaution; it has contributed to historically dry soils and fuels, increasing the likelihood that a wayward spark could spread quickly into a larger blaze; and it increases the risk that firefighters will have to use a precious commodity when it is needed by others, especially those in the agriculture and ranching industries.
“We are in a situation where water is at a premium,” Owens said. “We don’t want to have to spend water fighting a fire that was completely preventable.”
Owens said that when the Park City Fire District evaluates an application for a commercial fireworks shoot, it often issues a permit that requires the landowner or operator to water for days ahead of the show the so-called “fallout zone,” where firework shells land.
“That way if there’s anything that happens in the fallout zone, it happens slowly because the ground is wet,” Owens said. “With the current drought conditions, we can’t put that restriction in place. It’s not a responsible use of water to do that. That’s really what’s going to hold up the fireworks shows in the Park City Fire District.”
Owens’ announcement came days after Gov. Spencer Cox issued a drought-related executive order urging water conservation and state officials banned fireworks on state-owned land and unincorporated lands statewide.
Woolstenhulme said the Oakley fireworks are shot from the city’s soccer fields, which they use secondary water to irrigate. The city has decided not to water much of the vegetation on land it controls, but continues to irrigate the ballfields.
Firework shows in unincorporated Summit County have been notified they will not receive a permit, including shows planned at the Utah Olympic Park — which Owens said was not scheduled for July 4 — as well as displays planned in Glenwild and Promontory, according to Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer.
Kent Leavitt, a South Summit Fire District commissioner, said that the district would prefer Oakley hold off on its fireworks.
“We’ve offered to help as much as we can and encouraged them not to do it,” Leavitt said. “… They’re going to do what they want to do.”
He said the reason that he didn’t want to see the fireworks display was simple: “Because they cause fires.”
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