Due To The Megadrought, Various Western Cities Canceled Their Fireworks Shows.

As severe drought persists in the Southwest, localities are making tough decisions about their customary firework celebrations. Some municipalities have opted to forego their fireworks shows, while others have decided to go through as planned. More than 75% of the Western United States is experiencing a megadrought due to dry soil and inadequate precipitation. Officials and first responders are sounding the alarm about the dangers of Fourth of July fireworks.

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“Specific locations that are particularly vulnerable are all the way from Oregon to Mexico. All of California is vulnerable,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief John Heggie warned, given the ongoing drought and scorching temperatures. An estimated 19,500 fires were ignited by pyrotechnics in 2018, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And over 30 percent of the fires caused by pyrotechnics are sparked on the Fourth of July, based on 2014 to 2018 yearly averages.

Due to the megadrought, various Western cities canceled their fireworks shows.

In addition, a CNN study of National Interagency Fire Center data reveals a substantial surge in new wildfires over the last eight years surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. Fire prevention patrols will be out in force to take illicit fireworks, and there will be zero tolerance, Heggie added. While other locations are canceling their displays, a city in Colorado is choosing to maintain tradition.

Louisville, Colorado, a city northwest of Denver, is trying to continue its firework show in an effort to avoid wildfires. The city’s website pointed out it is seeking to “reduce the amount of illegal private shows” with their display, which is actively monitored by the fire department. Six months ago, the Marshall fire devastated sections of Boulder County, including Louisville. Burning more than 6,000 acres, the fire reached the golf facility where the city will conduct its firework show Monday.

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The city of Louisville’s official website said, “We have actually trimmed back the firework display this year to focus on the community experience leading up to the fireworks.” “The purpose of the celebration is to be inclusive and friendly to the entire community as we heal from the Marshall fire together.” On the south side of Denver, another town has elected to cancel its fireworks show due to the present wildfire danger. Since April, residents of Castle Rock, Colorado have been subject to Stage 1 fire restrictions. Norris Croom, a fire chief in Castle Rock, said the event was not worth the danger.

Croom stressed that they “did not want to endanger the safety of our neighborhood” by having fireworks go off-target or having debris rain down on them. Because of the drought, the ecology in more than half of Colorado is extremely vulnerable to wildfires. Only professional, approved firework displays are allowed in the state, and all other explosions are deemed unlawful. Another community in the path of recent wildfires is taking a very different approach.

Due to the megadrought, various Western cities canceled their fireworks shows

North Lake Tahoe, which went through the Caldor Fire in 2021, will skip fireworks in favor of a drone light display. “The decision was made in view of the fire and environmental concerns posed by a pyrotechnic fireworks display, shifting a long-standing tradition with an inventive new approach,” a release from the city announced.

South Lake Tahoe, which was evacuated in August due to the Caldor Fire, will still have its annual fireworks show as planned. A free community concert will take the place of fireworks in Claremont, California, an eastern suburb of Los Angeles. The city noted in a news release that water restrictions owing to the prolonged drought played a big part in their decision to cancel.

“Preparation for the fireworks show needs intensive irrigation in the days previous to the performance, accounting for nearly 650,000 gallons of water,” the news release added. With a hot and dry holiday weekend ahead, officials in California are reminding citizens of the state’s vulnerability to wildfires, given the prolonged drought. The reality is that pyrotechnics, both legal and illicit, cause wildfires every year, Heggie said. Heggie’s primary fear is small explosives like bottle rockets and roman candles, and people using “safe and sane” pyrotechnics in regions where they are forbidden.

He warned, “Please remember that your good intentions may have disastrous effects.” PG&E is urging customers to “put safety first” and adhere to all applicable pyrotechnic ordinances. The governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, signed an executive order in late April urging counties, towns, and local governments to consider banning certain pyrotechnics due to “severe drought and fire conditions” across the state. And as the largest wildfire in New Mexico history continues to burn, cities like Albuquerque are striving to prevent further catastrophe.

The city fireworks ordinance recognized that “Albuquerque has a unique wildland-urban interaction with open space regions that are in continual threat of wildfire.” Wild animals and residents in the area would both be in danger from these flames. Fireworks are restricted in open areas but can be purchased from stores and vendors within the city. Make sure you read the cautionary label. A warning label denotes forbidden conduct. A warning label is required by law. As it says in the fireworks law.

Albuquerque has started monitoring the entire city in preparation for the holiday. The city issues a stern warning: “Those who are caught will be cited, and they will be required to appear in court.” This year, Albuquerque’s Independence Day celebration, which features professional fireworks, will be held as usual and is open to the public. In place of the city’s usual fireworks display, Salt Lake City, Utah, will hold two Laser Light Nights this July.

Earlier this year, the Salt Lake City city council voted to redirect funds originally allocated for a fireworks display to an “alternative event,” according to Salt Lake City Public Lands event manager Lynze Twede. “[The municipal council] wants to make a difference and attempt to be an example to enhance our air quality and not contribute to the already high fire danger,” Twede stressed. With the switch to a laser light show on July 2 and 23, Salt Lake City intends to capture its audience and provide entertainment for people of all ages.

People still have the right to anticipate a spectacular show. But with this unique and innovative manner, we’re merely lighting up our skies a little differently this year,” Twede remarked. 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 anticipated with wind gusts up to 45 mph probable Sunday and Monday afternoon and evening. Overnight, winds are predicted to gradually die down.

A large number of Flagstaff residents were recently evacuated because of the Pipeline Fire in Arizona. The fire has been confined, but there is still a danger of it spreading to Flagstaff. Flagstaff is planning to continue its annual celebration with the help of a new laser light show in the city’s historic downtown, and they want to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

Flagstaff City Manager Greg Clifton explained the decision to replace fireworks with a laser light show was the responsible thing to do in light of the high fire danger caused by the recent heat wave in the region. “It is really crucial to have a safe celebration and be fire aware.”

The United States Forest Service stressed the importance of researching burn bans in advance because fire regulations vary by location. The southwest monsoon will bring isolated thunderstorms to the Arizona-New Mexico border this holiday weekend, which will help alleviate the dryness there. However, the rest of the West should still expect a hot and dry summer.