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Fireworks for the Fourth?

Amanda Roberson

SUMMIT COUNTY – Fireworks are up in the air this year, figuratively speaking. The dry conditions that sparked a county-wide fire ban in April have officials in the towns of Breckenridge and Frisco questioning whether it’s safe to hold annual Fourth of July fireworks displays.

Breckenridge is leaving the decision up to the Red, White, and Blue Fire Department, which is process of assessing whether conditions are too dangerous to shoot fireworks.

“Right now, it’s absolutely not safe. It’s too dry, and, if weather patterns hold, winds will be higher than normal,” said Red, White, and Blue assistant fire chief Gary Green. “We’d have to get some serious precipitation between now and the Fourth. Right now we don’t anticipate being able to issue a permit to the town.”

The Red, White, and Blue is consulting with the Forest Service in making its final decision, which it will issue to the town a week before the Fourth.

“We ordered the fireworks, and now it’s just a matter of whether we will shoot them on the Fourth or save them for another time,” said Town of Breckenridge events coordinator Carol Craig. “Our plan is to continue advertising the Fourth of July display, with the indication “weather permitting.'”

Breckenridge traditionally shoots fireworks from the Watson parking lot south of City Market, the largest area in town with no trees. This year’s dusty conditions led the town to question the safety of the location, said Craig.

Frisco is in a similar predicament, with its fireworks display over Lake Dillon on hold until the town receives an okay from the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Commission (DRREC). Made up of representatives from the Denver Water Board, each of the towns, and the county, DRREC makes decisions on activities around Lake Dillon. DRREC is working closely with the Lake Dillon Fire Authority to assess the safety of a fireworks display; volunteers from the Lake Dillon Fire Authority shoot off Frisco’s fireworks each year. DRREC will issue its final decision June 14.

“We’re hoping the fireworks can go on this year,” said Frisco director of community relations Linda Lichtendahl. “In dry years past, we have been able to shoot fireworks when other areas haven’t because we shoot them out over the water.”

Frisco also may consider alternate shooting sights, such as at the end of Marina Road, said Lichtendahl.

An overriding circumstance could automatically cancel both towns’ fireworks plans. A statewide fire ban issued by Governor Bill Owens would mean no Fourth of July fireworks in Colorado. Thus far, no such ban has been issued.

A county wide fire ban issued by Summit County Commissioners went into effect April 24. The ban prohibits open fires, fireworks, slash fires, and weed and grass torching, but applies only to private fireworks displays, and does not affect organized displays, said Summit County Sheriff’s public information officer Jill Berman. Assuming the governor does not issue a statewide ban, the decision to shoot fireworks is left up to the individual towns.

Fire and law enforcement officials statewide are asking Gov. Bill Owens to ban fireworks because of dangerous conditions created by drought.

The request was sent Monday to Owens’ officer by the Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association, the Fire Marshals Association of Colorado and the County Sheriffs of Colorado.

The request for a ban does not include approved public shows.

Wildland fire conditions reached frightening levels early into the season, said Kevin Klein, executive director of the Fire Chiefs Association.

“It’s the first time we’ve gotten together and said, “Hey, it’s just too much now,'” he said Wednesday.

An order by Owens could block even the sale of fireworks.

Owens spokesman Dan Hopkins said the governor was out of town but was aware of the request.

“He will be seeking input and taking it under advisement and making a decision as soon as possible,” Hopkins said.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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