Frisco cancels Fourth fireworks due to drought |

Frisco cancels Fourth fireworks due to drought

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Frisco Town Council unanimously decided Tuesday evening to cancel the town’s annual July Fourth fireworks display.

Though the display is held over water and is launched from a point that can be defended, the Frisco Town Council said it’s too risky – not just to hold the display, but to invite the potential numbers of people into town.

“We have the potential to be the only mountain community to have fireworks,” Councilman Woody Van Gundy said, describing the gridlock that could ensue if something were to happen.

There was some discussion of the economics of canceling the fireworks, including business owner Kelly Foote, who originally suggested the town reserve the right to hold the display up to the day of the holiday should conditions permit, but later retracted his suggestion after hearing about the dire conditions of the forest.

Councilmember Tom Connolly said the owner of the Island Grill, which stands to lose the most from the cancellation, didn’t want the town to hold it if they assumed any liability.

It costs “millions upon millions of dollars” to fight fires, Sheriff John Minor said, and that liability would be shifted to the town, per governor orders and per a conditional letter of permission sent from the Sheriff’s Office to the town on Friday, outlining the need for a $5 million insurance policy and the ability to fund firefighting costs should anything happen.

Connolly added that his brief survey of Main Street business owners showed roughly 75 percent were in favor of canceling, as were the majority of the 100 voters in Summit Daily’s Tuesday online poll. It’s better to be safe than sorry, they say. Thirty percent of voters (29) said Frisco should go ahead as planned.

Via Facebook, readers reiterate the poll, saying things like, “We are a tinderbox here,” and, “Imagine how bad the town would feel if they decided to have the show and something went terribly wrong …” One Facebook user claimed nothing would happen, which another user called “famous last words.”

Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue chief Dave Parmley assured town council that his crew could set fireworks off safely, but that it’s not worth the risk.

“At this point in time, I believe it’s in the interest of the town and public safety that the fireworks display not be held and that we step back and look at the bigger picture,” he said, citing the current statewide toll on resources, the need for the fire pattern to cease, and the human factor of people coming into town as reasons to discontinue the fireworks.

“Lives and property are the top things we need to keep in priority here,” Parmley said. “Our state is in a real vulnerable position right now. This may make the statement you want to make.”

He also cited uncertainty of what would happen with the rain and lightning storms of Tuesday afternoon. A lightning strike from Tuesday could show up in a few days, it’s so dry, he said. At least one spot fire caused by lightning was radioed in on Tuesday afternoon.

Single-digit humidity levels and all-time aridity in fuels means “the slightest spark will ignite,” Parmley said. “The rain is welcome today, but it’s far short of what we need.”

Minor said he’s been at the base of many fireworks displays, and witnessed a fire once.

“That was a relatively wet year. I’d hate to see what would happen if we set a fire this year,” he said.

Frisco held out on canceling the fireworks, and was the hope of many enthusiastic patriots wanting fireworks in the mountains on July Fourth. Breckenridge and Dillon canceled their fireworks displays recently, citing extremely dry conditions that make it too risky to play with fire. The dry conditions prompted Summit County Government and the U.S. Forest Service to recently step up the fire ban to Stage 2. Copper Mountain and Keystone Resort have also canceled their displays. However, if the weather changes drastically prior to the holiday (according to Sheriff John Minor, precipitation would need to be significant), the municipalities may say the ‘works could be a go.

The governor has banned the private use of fireworks, and Summit County, the Forest Service and firefighting agencies are on board with the order. Lake Dillon Fire Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher said his agency supports the fireworks ban as well as the “aggressive” prosecution of people setting off fireworks.

“That’s just asking for trouble shooting off fireworks,” he said earlier Tuesday. “If Frisco cancels its display, it wasn’t a decision that was reached lightly and there’s sound reasoning behind it. Maybe people would heed that and realize that, holy-moly, the fire danger is so bad that the town, which loves to launch this display and bring thousands of people into town, says it’s not worth it.”

The Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement plan to be out in full force without leniency on people violating the Stage 2 fire ban.

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