For the second straight year, there will be no Fourth of July fireworks show on Aspen Mountain.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which puts on the annual fireworks display, and the Aspen Fire Marshal’s Office jointly made the decision to cancel the popular event. The official reason: dry conditions.
“We are disappointed that the Fourth of July fireworks are canceled, but safety is of paramount importance,” chamber president and CEO Debbie Braun said in a prepared statement.
Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven called the cancellation a “proactive safety measure.”
“We’ve been in a drought for a few years,” Van Walraven said Tuesday. “Last year’s drought was bad but not as bad as this year, because last year we still had moisture from the year before. This year we didn’t have that moisture. That’s the simple way of putting it.”
He said the area is under a National Weather Service red-flag warning because of low humidity and high winds. The warning serves to inform area land-management and fire-fighting agencies that conditions are ripe for wildland fires that can spread rapidly.
“We don’t want to call it off at the last minute and have everybody be disappointed, and this way people can make plans,” Van Walraven said. “I commend ACRA for working with us on this and understanding the situation.”
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said that he is the official county fire warden, and all permits for fireworks shows need his signature. No permit for a Fourth of July fireworks show at Aspen Mountain came to his desk this year, but he did approve one for the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt.
Had ACRA sought a permit, DiSalvo said, he would have based his decision to approve or deny it on the current state of moisture in the area.
“When I get the fireworks permits every year for several events, I go to the other fire chiefs in the area and ask them to give me the science on this,” he said. “When I talked to my advisors last week about the possibility of (Fourth of July) fireworks up here, they said Aspen Mountain has lower energy-release components than anywhere else in the valley, it’s a north-facing slope, (and) it can be irrigated. The fire chiefs I spoke to, including Aspen’s, said they would sign it.
“When I left that meeting, I said if I see a permit, I will offer to sign it, with a caveat that I think (a fireworks show) is a bad message to be sending out to the rest of the state,” DiSalvo said.
With eight wildfires raging in other parts of Colorado, an Aspen fireworks show would look inappropriate and awkward, the sheriff said.
“I think canceling it was the responsible thing to do, even though conditions might be favorable for me to sign the final permit,” DiSalvo said.
In a statement, the chamber said that despite the cancellation of the fireworks show, there will be plenty of Independence Day festivities, including the Boogie’s five-mile charity run or one-mile family and canine walk, a kids carnival, the noontime parade down Main Street, community picnics, free concerts and more.
“We don’t want to call it off at the last minute and have everybody be disappointed, and this way people can make plans.”
Ed Van Walraven
Aspen fire marshal